Part 3 – Where Should a Runner Seek Help When Injured?

The next post in our series on types of healthcare providers is about sports medicine doctors. I have worked alongside sports medicine doctors for my entire career and they are amazing human beings. They are highly educated and they really understand the athlete mindset. They want to get you back to your sport but they want to do it as safely as possible so you are not at risk of further injury. 

For this post, I interviewed Dr. Dominique Stevens, a sports medicine provider for Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. My hope for this series is to help runners understand which healthcare provider to seek out when they are injured. According to Dr. Stevens, runners should see a doctor when they sustain an acute injury. An acute injury is something that happens suddenly – not an overuse injury which creeps up slowly over time. You will almost always be aware that you sustained an acute injury because you will feel or hear a pop and have a sharp pain. An example would be an ankle sprain.  You should also seek help from a doctor if you have an injury that has become so nagging that it is interfering with your everyday life. If you can not walk normally and nothing you are trying is making it better, you should call a doctor. 

Sports medicine trained physicians have additional training beyond that of your primary care physician. Primary care (also sometimes called family medicine) doctors are trained in managing all kinds of things. Everything from strep throat to blood pressure. Primary care doctors do receive some training in musculoskeletal injuries. Just like it sounds, those are injuries to the muscles or bones. Sports medicine doctors go on for at least a minimum of one more year of training in musculoskeletal injuries and they must be board certified. This means they have to pass a very thorough national exam on sports medicine issues. 

I asked Dr. Stevens if she could share a specific example of a time that an injured athlete sought out her help and she was the right person for the job. She described a time when an athlete was experiencing a nagging shoulder pain. He did not recall a specific acute injury, but gradually over time he could not throw properly and nothing he had tried for himself was helping.  Dr. Stevens performed a thorough history and physical exam and took an x-ray. She was able to correctly diagnose tendonitis and explain to this athlete the need to do a rehab program that was tailored specifically to his needs. He successfully returned to his sport. 

Thank you so much for reading and stay tuned for the next post in the series! 

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