Treating athletic patients can be the most satisfying part of podiatric practice. While people who sustain injury from sports or fitness activities may randomly seek the care of a podiatric physician, few practitioners actively seek referral of these types of patients.
There may be multiple reasons why the majority of podiatric physicians do not try to capitalize on the golden opportunity that a sports medicine practice offers. However, I suspect that one major reason is the simple fact that most podiatric physicians, particularly recent graduates, lack the confidence in their skills to evaluate and treat athletic injuries.
There is no doubt that the curriculum in podiatric medical education has drifted far away from any emphasis on biomechanics and sports medicine in favor of expanding surgical training and limb salvage. This is true both in the schools of podiatric medicine as well as accredited postgraduate continuing medical education symposia. While today’s graduate of podiatric medical school and PSR-36 residency programs may have better surgical skills than a graduate 20 years ago, his or her ability to evaluate and treat the most common sports injuries in the lower extremity is sorely lacking.
I have served on the medical staff of a large Division I university for over 20 years and am well aware that the vast majority of the injuries we evaluate in the lower extremity of our athletes are not treated with surgery. Yes, we occasionally see fractures and tendon ruptures that require surgical intervention and I am fortunate to have the skills to do these procedures when the head trainer asks. At the same time, my knowledge of podiatric biomechanics, footwear technology, foot orthotic therapy and functional rehabilitation protocols has made me a valuable member of the sports medicine team.
Key Resources For Bolstering Knowledge And Skill In Sports Medicine
How can recent graduates gain this same knowledge and skill? Here are a few key resources.
The American Academy of Podiatric Sports Medicine (AAPSM) is the official resource and educational organization for the sub-specialty of podiatric sports medicine. Any podiatric physician with an interest in sports medicine should be a member of AAPSM. With a modest yearly dues requirement, members of AAPSM receive valuable newsletters with educational articles and information about sports medicine seminars around the country. The AAPSM website (www.aapsm.org ) has a wealth of information for both the podiatric physician and the general public about a wide array of topics including a current list of recommended athletic footwear.
Additionally, fellowship status with the AAPSM is well recognized by certified athletic trainers and team physicians who make referrals of athletes from NCAA institutions and professional sports teams. Recently, the United States Olympic Committee has developed a referral program for athletes, specifically earmarking podiatric physicians who have fellowship status in AAPSM.
Attend CE/CME programs that feature sports medicine and biomechanics sessions. Sadly, such opportunities are becoming scarcer in our profession but a few organizations still recognize the importance of these topics and regularly offer them on their programs.
In terms of gaining cutting edge information about lower extremity biomechanics and foot orthotic therapy, the Western Foot and Ankle Conference (formerly known as the Western Podiatric Medical Congress) continues to offer a stellar program each and every year. The New York Clinical Conference regularly offers lectures and workshops in biomechanics and foot orthotic therapy. Both these meetings also offer sessions on podiatric sports medicine. The Midwest Podiatry Conference and the Scientific and Management (SAM) meeting in Florida have partnered with the AAPSM over the past few years to offer an excellent program of podiatric sports medicine topics.
In terms of organizations, the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) has made a strong commitment to featuring an entire session devoted to podiatric biomechanics at its annual meeting and has partnered with AAPSM to feature two or three sports medicine sessions and a full session of sports medicine workshops. The AAPSM has also carried on a noble effort to stage one-day seminars in podiatric sports medicine at selected colleges of podiatric medicine around the country. Just visit the AAPSM website to learn about future seminars.
The Podiatry Institute is another educational organization that has demonstrated a great commitment to featuring topics of biomechanics and sports medicine in its curriculum (www.podiatryinstitute  ). While this organization remains the premier surgical educational arm of our profession, it also recognizes the importance of biomechanics as the foundation of surgical principles. Furthermore, the Podiatry Institute has a strong respect for the role that sports medicine has played in the growth and stature of our profession over the past 30 years.
For self-education, journals from other sports medicine specialties can provide a continuous update of new trends and knowledge. My favorite publications that help me stay on the cutting edge include the American Journal of Sports Medicine (http://ajs.sagepub.com/  ), the Journal of Athletic Training (http://www.journalofathletictraining.org/  ) and the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy (http://www.jospt.org/  ).
And do not forget Podiatry Today. I am privileged to serve as Editor of a regular Sports Medicine column in Podiatry Today, which features guest contributors who provide practical tips and information on sports medicine topics. You can access an archive of all of these articles at http://bit.ly/hjeAzl  .
Finally, as a practicing podiatric physician, you have a voice in our profession to demand more training in biomechanics and sports medicine. Your feedback to our professional organizations will help direct educational programs and may influence curriculum at the schools of podiatric medicine.
For those who are confident in their skills and knowledge of podiatric sports medicine, but are not getting large numbers of referrals of athletic patients, there are some easy resources to tap. I’ll provide more information on this in my next blog.