Staying fit is vital, whether you are a teenager or an adult and whether you are older or younger. As you challenge your body with rigorous practices, races or workout routines, you can reach the next level of fitness — but one workout session can also leave you injured or in serious pain. Other complications can occur gradually, eventually intensifying to a point that requires action.
As an active individual, the next step in your healing process is receiving specialized care from a sports medicine physician. Orthopedic surgeons or primary care practitioners in this field are equipped with a unique perspective on evaluating and treating athletes, and they work to create a treatment plan that will get you participating in the athletic activities you love once again.
An ongoing relationship with your sports medicine physician can prevent further damage to any previous injuries and optimize your time and effort in building strength and longevity as an athlete. Prepare to find and meet your physician with these answers to common questions and tips for your first appointment.
What Should I Look for in a Sports Medicine Physician?
To choose the most qualified and fitting physician for your injury, research the physicians in your area to determine their previous experience, education and reputation. Inquire about a physician by researching them online, calling their office and asking any former patients of theirs you know. Also, check out these characteristics to choose the right physician for your athletic needs:
1. Their Credentials
Medical boards for each state provide information about physicians practicing in their region, and licensure or certification requirements can be referenced to assess a physician's obligations and conformity to state standards. Continuing education is also a fundamental provision that physicians are held to, so you want to be sure your physician is participating.
A physician's credentials are essential in discovering the leading individuals in sports medicine. Doctors often display their medical degrees and documentation online or in their workplace, but inquiring further about specific practitioners will make your choice clearer once you take into account each qualifying factor.
2. Their Specialization
The field of sports medicine also has subcategories that hone in on separate parts of the body, distinct procedures and even innovative techniques. These specific features come with years of experience and are solidified with the number of patients a surgeon operates on and treats. Another factor to consider is how long the physician has been practicing in both sports medicine and their specialty category.
If it's clear they are a shoulder, hip, knee, elbow, foot, ankle, hand or spine specialist or surgeon, they will be able to design a proven, personal treatment plan to get you healed and back into your athletic activities. Their understanding of your injury and its location will demonstrably show in their explanations and communication with you as you are treated.
3. Your Primary Care Physician's Opinion of Them
Recommendations from your primary care physician with whom you have developed trust in can give you peace of mind and confidence. An expert opinion is a substantial sign of a medical practitioner's ability and success. Ask your primary practitioner about sports medicine specialists and surgeons as part of your research.
Word of mouth extends to your circle of acquaintances, family and friends. Do you have team members who had similar cases? The experience of other patients is a starting point, but keep in mind that each physician-patient interaction is different. Consider how expedient their recovery was, their opinion of the specialist, their impression of other employees in the doctor's office and their current physical activity and abilities. Quality of service continues to be a critical factor in patient decisions.
4. Their Bedside Manner and a Good Connection
As a patient, feeling comfortable with your physician is important. When tough questions come up concerning surgery and treatment plans, you want to know that your physician cares and is looking out for your best interests. When you meet your physician and they familiarize themselves with your case, evaluate their bedside manner, helpfulness and knowledge. Trust is a key part of selecting a sports medicine physician.
Do not be afraid to ask your doctor questions about alternative treatment choices, either. Their goal should be to assist you and put you on the road to recovery. Don't hesitate to discuss your worries about surgery or recovery. Your doctor can put your mind at ease with their medical knowledge and handle on your situation.
5. The Physician's Experience and Ability to Inform
When you make decisions about your medical health, your healthcare professional is a valuable source of information and knowledge. They should be able to guide you to the treatment option that is best for your wellness. When you ask questions, your physician must take their technical understanding and command of their medical specialty and translate them into terms you can understand and procedures you can follow to expedite your recovery process.
An initial meeting will display your physician's level of familiarity with the type of injury you have sustained. It is important that you understand the information they convey and watch for insightful dialogue that will help you grasp the origin of your issue as well as the solution and recuperation sequence.
What Should I Expect From My First Appointment With a Sports Medicine Doctor?
A sports medicine physician should come to your appointment ready to learn about you, your activity level and your injury and form a plan of action that ensures positive results. They will likely pose several questions to first evaluate your condition and the nature of your injury.
Further queries may aim to identify whether your injury is from overuse and if it requires surgery or less invasive procedures, among other details. Expect the development of a solid patient-physician relationship and the gathering of information needed to help your current injury and prevent re-injury down the road. Here are some things to expect when you meet the doctor on your first visit:
1. Be Prepared to Talk About Your Level of Activity or Fitness Routine
Sports medicine physicians are aware of the risks associated with particular sports, workout practices and routines. They will take a look at the frequency with which you practice or train and how that may have contributed to your injury.
To ensure your physician gets a complete picture, thoroughly describe your practices, how you train and any irregularities in your health during intense athletic conditioning. The regularity of your competitions or races and any upcoming athletic event could relate to your health as well.
2. Be Ready to Describe How and When You Were Hurt
Pass on the details of your injury to your physician. Be sure to explain how and when you were injured. The timing of your incident relative to your first visit to a sports medicine doctor may affect how quickly you need treatment or surgery.
If your problem was progressive and appeared slowly, the timeline may be more difficult to recall. Still, try your best to pinpoint the moment you noticed pain or difficulty moving and when it became problematic to your fitness. Be prepared to recount as many details as possible to your sports medicine specialist.
3. Be Honest About the Level of Pain You Are Experiencing
There will be an investigation into your level of discomfort. Positions that increase your pain shed light on the location of your injury and potential additional injuries. If you suspect that you have hurt your leg, for instance, but you find hip pain accompanies some positions and movements, the origin of the problem could be more complex and require alternative treatments.
Inform your physician if you are unable to perform basic movements or if a specific position reduces stress or discomfort. The level of pain you are experiencing generally shows the intensity and type of action needed, and sources for relief will vary.
4. Expect Follow-Up Treatments
After evaluating your situation, further tests can be necessary to generate a diagnosis. The next steps from your physician will be based on that diagnosis and will establish a treatment plan that may include surgery, minimally-invasive options or various forms of therapy. Physical therapy is a hands-on therapy method your doctor may recommend, and it includes specific exercises rather than surgery. A home treatment may be another way to rehabilitate in a comfortable setting.
A follow-up treatment plan will contain further instructions to avoid incidents and health issues. Your physician will consider your current routine and athletic involvement when delivering these directions as well.
What Does My Sports Medicine Physician Need to Know About Me?
Your physician needs to know about your athletic status and exercise practices, of course, but they should also be informed about any significant lifestyle changes, medications and previously existing conditions. Be prepared to supply your healthcare professional with any facts they need. Check out these common pieces of information that athletes should communicate to their sports medicine physician during an appointment:
1. Changes in Weight and Exercise Limits
Athletes and active people need extensive energy to sustain their stamina in intense activities. Rapid weight loss due to insufficient nourishment can negatively impact your athletic performance. A sports medicine physician may recommend consultation with a nutritionist if this is a factor in your illness or harmed state.
Are you experiencing regular pain during light or moderate workouts? If your usual amount of exercise has suddenly become impossible to complete and your workout limits have changed drastically, this could reflect a health complication. Immediately let your physician know about any concerns you have.
2. Any Fluctuation in Mood or Libido
Mood changes in active individuals might be more than they appear. Fatigue can occur in overactive athletes. Your physician can evaluate whether you are over-training or if alterations should be made to your fitness pattern and diet. Even elite athletes can be hampered by intensive training.
A change in libido, similarly, can indicate an improper balance in nourishment and your amount of exercise. Expressing concerns about hormonal imbalance is necessary to regain well-being, and doctors who specialize in athletic cases recognize signs of under-fueling and harmful exertion better than anyone.
3. Current and Past Medications
Re-informing your healthcare professional about the medications you are taking is safer than failing to mention the information at all. Share your current intake of medications with your physician and any allergies to medications. Mention past prescriptions and anything in your medical history that is worth disclosing as well. While your doctor will likely initiate this exchange, be prepared to provide the details.
4. Past Health Issues and Injuries
Similar to telling your physician about medications you are taking and allergies you may have, explain any current or past health problems and previous injuries. A 2016 study showed that ankles were the location of most re-injury among high school athletes. Ligament sprains and concussions also reoccur often in teenage participants.
Long-time athletes and even active adults re-injure themselves, and your sports medicine physician must be aware of your former breaks, sprains and tears to effectively start the healing and strengthening process.
Health complications, like shortness of breath, dizziness or an aching chest, may be a byproduct of a serious incident or a more dangerous health condition. Heart conditions, concussions, asthma and internal damages may show up during fitness-related activities or examinations of sports-related injuries. Watch for signs of further health complications that extend beyond a sports injury.
What Treatment Plan Questions Should I Ask My Sports Medicine Doctor?
Once your appointment is nearing the end, your physician will either schedule a follow-up appointment or inform you of the next steps in the process. Surgery is often a necessary treatment, but other treatment plans may be available or recommended based on your injury. Here are some of the questions you will want to ask your sports physician — if they don't provide the answers on their own:
- Is surgery necessary?
- What are the effects of the surgery?
- What does the surgical process look like?
- Are there alternative options available to treat this injury?
- What is the cost of the treatment or surgery?
- Are stem cell treatments a viable option for this injury?
- When can I return to my regular exercise routine and active lifestyle?
Visit Mufaddal Gombera, MD for Your Fitness-Related Injury
Athletic injuries are painful enough without a dependable and personal sports medicine physician. Fortunately, Dr. Mufaddal Gombera is a trusted orthopedic surgeon who can confidently assess your injury and minimize the time you must spend away from your active lifestyle. You can rely on his ability to aim for the least invasive procedure, and his exceptional credentials, including board-certification, speak for themselves.
As a specialist in sports medicine, Dr. Gombera is experienced in shoulder, knee and hip injuries and arthroscopy. Serving Houston, Beaumont and Cypress, TX residents, he and his team work to help you return to a functional and healthy condition. If you are experiencing extensive pain or other complications from an exercise-induced injury, Dr. Gombera is prepared to find the best method to alleviate your discomfort and begin your recovery.
Schedule an appointment today. Request an appointment online or call our office at (713) 794-3457.