Choose the Right Sports Medicine Expert
By Christina Chapski, Ed.D., AT, ATC
Henry Ford Health
November 15, 2022
If you're an athlete, chances are you'll require specialized care from a health professional during your career.
Confused about the differences between athletic trainers, sports medicine physicians and exercise physiologists, among other experts? You're not alone!
Each of these professionals has different levels of training, expertise and certifications, but the care they provide often overlaps. That's one reason why they often work together.
Sports Professionals Defined
Caring for athletes isn't always clear-cut. In fact, most athletes require a full team of professionals working in concert to stay at the top of their game. Yet confusion remains about which professionals you need to see for training, injury prevention, and recovery and treatment after an injury.
Each type of professional has its own set of experience, training and certifications. Here’s how they measure up:
· Sports medicine doctor: Sports medicine physicians are typically trained in orthopedic surgery, primary care or emergency medicine. These professionals have medical degrees as well as specialized training in sports medicine, including the prevention and treatment of injury. In addition to caring for conditions ranging from concussion to head colds, sports medicine physicians also focus on helping people return to sports safely and effectively after illness or injury.
· Athletic trainer: Athletic trainers take care of athletes from prevention through rehabilitation. In collaboration with a physician, these professionals offer insights that help minimize risk and prevent injuries. They evaluate athletes and provide immediate care and treatment, sometimes even on the sidelines. They also provide rehabilitation and reconditioning after an injury or illness.
· Exercise physiologist: Exercise physiologists study the effect of exercise on the muscular, cardiovascular, and sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. They examine functional capacity and strength due to endurance training or strength training. These professionals may also test athletes for VO2max (your oxygen volume while training) and body composition (the ratio of fatty mass to lean mass).
· Physical medicine and rehab physician: These professionals treat a variety of medical conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons. They take the whole body into account to pinpoint problems and enhance performance without surgery.
· Physical therapist: Physical therapists diagnose and treat individuals of all ages with conditions that limit their ability to move and perform daily activities.
Other Specialized Professionals Who Care for Athletes
In addition to the health care professionals described above, athletes may meet with a host of experts, including:
· Nurses and medical assistants
· Occupational therapists
· Behavioral health specialists
· Complementary medical practitioners, such as acupuncturists and chiropractors
None of these individuals are "fitness professionals," a term nearly anyone can use to describe a range of professional activities. Rather, these sports medicine experts are part of a comprehensive team that includes at least one physician. They are each licensed by the state to provide specialized care to athletes.
Personal trainers, on the other hand, focus on helping people find their way around the gym, hold them accountable to achieve their goals and help new exercisers and seasoned fitness enthusiasts stick to a workout regimen.
If you're an athlete, you need a team of health professionals who can provide comprehensive care to reach your highest potential.
Christina Chapski, Ed.D., AT, ATC, is the Director of Athletic Training & Community Outreach with Henry Ford Sports Medicine.
Want to learn more? Henry Ford Health System sports medicine experts are treating the whole athlete, in a whole new way. From nutrition to neurology, and from injury prevention to treatment of sports-related conditions, they can give your athlete a unique game plan.
Visit henryford.com/sports or call (313) 972-4216 for an appointment within 24 business hours.
5 Ways Acupuncture Can Enhance Athletic Performance
May 9, 2023
In the ancient Chinese medicine of acupuncture, thin needles are gently inserted into specific areas of the body, stimulating blood flow to speed the recovery of certain ailments.
It can be used as a treatment for everything from headaches and unbalanced hormones to joint pain and weakened immune systems. Acupuncture is also popular among athletes, as many of them incorporate it into their wellness regimens to stay in peak physical condition.
“Back in the day, athletes ate steak, smoked cigars and drank whiskey during the week and then played football on Sunday,” says Thomas Betts, a sports medicine acupuncturist with Henry Ford Health System. “But today, to improve their performance, athletes are attacking the body from every angle possible with diet, lifestyle and exercise. NBA players, for example, have talked about how acupuncture keeps them feeling their best.”
But you don’t have to be an NBA star to reap the benefits of acupuncture. Whether you’re a professional or student athlete, or you exercise and play sports for fun or to challenge yourself, here are ways acupuncture can boost your game:
- Acupuncture can help you recover more quickly from an injury. “If a muscle is torn, acupuncture won’t put it back together, but for sprains and strains, muscle soreness and tendonitis, acupuncture can decrease inflammation and speed the healing process,” says Betts.
- Acupuncture can reduce the need for “rest days.” If you just had an intense workout and your muscles are sore, getting acupuncture afterward can loosen the muscles and decrease soreness so you don’t have to take a day off to recuperate before training again.
- Acupuncture can improve flexibility, decrease muscle tension and increase muscle activation. “This is done with motor point acupuncture,” says Betts. “The motor point is where the brain attaches to the muscle via the motor nerve. By using needles to stimulate a motor point, it is like rebooting a phone or computer that isn’t working well: Motor point acupuncture is autoregulating, in that it can deactivate a tight muscle or reactivate an inhibited or weak muscle.”
- Acupuncture can provide immediate pain relief. “Some studies show that acupuncture can provide as much as, if not more pain relief than medication,” Betts says. “It differs for everyone, and it depends on what is being treated, but some people say they feel a difference right after a session, and others say they feel better about 20 to 30 minutes later.” Pain relief can last from a few hours to a few days.
- Acupuncture can help prevent injury. Because acupuncture can reactivate weak muscles and decrease muscle tension, it can also be used as a preventative measure against injury, Betts says. But you should always still stretch before and after exercising!
Learn more about acupuncture and other integrative medicine services at Henry Ford. To make an appointment, you can request one online or by calling 1-833-246-4347.
Thomas Betts, DOAM, RAc, is a certified sports acupuncturist with Henry Ford Health. He sees patients at the Henry Ford Center for Athletic Medicine in Detroit.