Building A Practice Focused On Podiatric Sports Medicine

Author(s): 
Tim Dutra, DPM, MS, MS-HCA

Many of us who went into the podiatric profession did so because of our passion for sports. I was always interested in a career that combined sports and medicine, and podiatry was the perfect profession in which to do it.

   I have always been involved in sports and have had experience being an athlete, athletic trainer, youth sports coach, high school coach and team podiatrist. I think the more athletic experience you can bring to your practice, the better you can deal with athletes as patients. Athletes can be the most satisfying part of your practice as they are highly motivated and anxious to return to their activity. All of us see athletes and active patients in our practice. Essentially, you may already be engaged in a sports medicine practice and can easily build on your foundation.

   Networking is very important early on in private practice. Get to know your local doctors, especially the ones who specialize in sports medicine. Let them know that you are available for consultation if needed.

   I think the attitude that every patient is an athlete is a good baseline philosophy for your practice. Every patient has some level of activity and athletes suffer the same injuries as our everyday patients. By far, the most athletic injuries are overuse type of injuries and many involve the lower extremity. The key to treating athletes is to focus on getting them back to their activity as quickly as possible while preventing further injury or reoccurrence. Access to healthcare can be a challenge for all levels of athletes.

Recognizing Your Role On The Team And Interacting In The Community

Most sports involve a team approach and a sports medicine practice is no different. Podiatric sports medicine is really being part of a team of providers focusing on getting the athlete healthy and ready to return to activity. We commonly must work with the primary care physician, orthopedist, physical therapist, athletic trainer, coach and numerous other specialists to ensure we are doing all we can for the athlete. This is true in any podiatric specialty but is most evident in sports medicine. Since the majority of sports injuries involve the lower extremity, we are an essential part of the sports medicine team.

   One of the easiest and most accessible ways to begin building your sports medicine practice is to get involved in your community. Almost all communities will have active youth leagues, high school athletic teams, dance studios, club sports and numerous other opportunities for you to get involved. You can coordinate and participate in preseason athletic screening with other healthcare professionals (networking), give talks to groups, volunteer time with teams and clubs, work with the athletic trainers in your area, etc. Many communities will have colleges and student health centers that you can get involved with. The more visible and available you are, the better.

What You Should Know About The Sports Medicine Pyramid

The sports medicine pyramid (see image below) demonstrates how to build your practice and where the most athletes are, from youth sports to the professional and elite athletes. There is a tremendous need to treat our youth athletes who participate in many sports: little league baseball, girls’ softball, dance, martial arts, basketball, football, track and field, etc.

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