As the parent of a young athlete, know that you have other adults on your child's team. One of them is on call behind the scenes: the pediatric sports medicine specialist.
A pediatric sports medicine specialist is a doctor who has chosen to train and focus his or her medical practice on healing injuries caused during sports or athletic activities. These are injuries that could result from a collision between players or from a youngster working the same muscles too much or falling on a hard surface and fracturing a bone. If untreated, damage to a child's tendons, joints, muscles, and bones could have lasting effects on his or her growth.
To practice as a pediatric sports medicine specialist, doctors must have four years of medical school, three years of training in pediatrics, and an additional two years of specialized training in sports medicine. Plus, they have to earn a Certification of Added Qualification through the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Pediatric sports medicine specialists know that children are not "small adults." They understand that the body of a child or teen is still developing and requires different approaches to treatment.
An epidemic of disabling sports injuries is plaguing young athletes across the U.S., according to Stop Sports Injuries, a campaign led by the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine. Pediatric sports medicine specialists not only treat these injuries, but also tell parents how to help prevent them from recurring. Some children and teens may find it hard to talk about what's going on with their body. Another reason for them to see pediatric sports medicine specialists is that these doctors are trained to treat youngsters — they know how to work with young athletes and put them at ease. Their offices are usually designed with young patients in mind. For small children, for instance, they usually offer toys and games that may not be found in regular doctors' offices.
A sports medicine specialist treats common sports injuries in young athletes, such as sprains, strains, fractures, dislocations, and injuries to ligaments.
Serious problems often treated by a pediatric sports medicine specialist include:
Tendonitis and other overuse injuries
Damage to the shock-absorbing cartilage
Concerns about nutrition or sports supplement use
Multidrug resistant staph infections
Care of an athlete with special needs
In addition, pediatric sports medicine specialists can help with almost any kind of pain or physical limitations that are making it hard for a child to enjoy sports or exercise. These doctors also have expertise with conditions, such as exercise-induced asthma, diabetes, eating disorders, and other diseases, that could affect a young athlete's performance.
These specialists practice in children's hospitals, private clinics, and sports medicine clinics, among other medical facilities. You might need a referral from your child's pediatrician to see a pediatric sports medicine specialist. Make sure you understand what your health insurance plan requires before you set up an appointment.