When should I visit a sports medicine doctor?

Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a committed athlete, aches, pains and injuries are often part of the game. But when serious accidents or more run-of-the-mill repetitive stress injuries happen, who should you see? Your general practitioner, or a sports-medicine specialist?

I often answer that question based on frequency. You should see a sports medicine doctor for injuries received from sports you do on a regular or semi-regular basis. Why? Because a sports medicine specialist can do more than just help you heal. They can get you back into the game in a healthy way.

What is a sports medicine specialist?

A sports medicine physician is a doctor with additional specialization in the mechanics of movement and sports performance. At UofL Physicians – Sports Medicine, we have experts in sports-related activities, and how it affects healing, performance, and overall health. We focus on healing injuries and helping athletes enhance their endurance, speed and effectiveness on the field. But you don’t have to be a professional athlete to see us. We’re just as happy to see someone whose favorite sport is only for fun and exercise, too.

Sports medicine experts can be found in many different disciplines, giving you a wealth of choices, depending on your need. For instance, I am a sports medicine physician with UofL Physicians – Orthopedics and I treat a variety of sports related orthopedic injuries. Not all sports medicine physicians are orthopedic doctors, some are medical doctors with a sports medicine specialization. Sports medicine physicians are also surgeons that operate on sports related injuries. Similarly, there are sports medicine nutritionists, who help athletes develop the right regimen of supplements and healthy eating to enhance sports performance.  And there are physical therapists who specialize in training programs that enhance sports performance, and help athletes heal from injury. Even personal trainers can specialize in working with athletes in certain sports.

What sports medicine physicians treat

As sports medicine experts, our purview goes far beyond just sprains, strains, and shin splints. We treat a large array of conditions, including:

  • Acute injuries such as ankle sprains, muscle strains, knee and shoulder injuries, and fractures
  • Overuse injuries like rotator cuff injuries, tendonitis, and stress fractures
  • Medical and injection therapies for osteoarthritis
  • Concussions and other head injuries
  • Athletes with chronic or acute illnesses (like infectious mononucleosis, asthma, or diabetes)

When to see a general practitioner and when to see a sports medicine specialist

Athletes should consider going to a sports medicine doctor if they have an injury related to overuse or training for their sport. This includes chronic conditions, like tendonitis, or more acute sports injuries that might require a surgeon’s care. Patients are often referred to us by general practitioners when an injury doesn’t improve on its own within two weeks, or an MRI reveals the need for specialist care.

At UofL Physicians – Sports Medicine, you will find a wealth of sports medicine experts, dedicated to helping you be the healthiest, happiest athlete possible.

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About Neil Patil, M.D.

Dr. Neil Patil is a sports medicine physician with UofL Physicians – Orthopedics. Dr. Patil received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi and his doctor of medicine degree from the Ross University School of Medicine in the West Indies. He completed his residency and fellowship at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He is member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine; American Academy of Family Physicians; Kentucky Medical Association; and Greater Louisville Medical Society. As an active volunteer medical provider in our local community, he has provided medical care to athletes during the NCAA Division II Women’s Field Hockey National Championship; PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club; Urban Bourbon Half Marathon; Triple Crown Races and the Ironman. He has provided care to a variety of athletes and sports teams including the Bellarmine University Women’s Soccer team, Iroquois High School Football team and the University of Louisville Women’s Basketball team. In addition, while studying at the University of Mississippi, he was president and captain of the school’s Men’s Club Soccer Team.

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