What is Sports Medicine? Treatments & Specialists

What is Sports Medicine? Treatments & Specialists
Most people think of athletic trainers when they think of the sports medicine team. However, there are several other specialists that round out that team, such as licensed chiropractors and certified

Most people think of athletic trainers when they think of the sports medicine team. However, there are several other specialists that round out that team, such as licensed chiropractors and certified massage therapists, who help athletes get back on the field quickly and safely.

Dr. Benjamin Cowin owns and practices at Action Spine & Sports Medicine in Denver, Colorado. Most chiropractic doctors believe in lifetime visits with a monthly fee. However, Dr. Cowin believes athletes should not be tied down to these lifetime plans.

Dr. Cowin believes athletes know their body better than the general population and will take the appropriate steps to get back to competition as quickly as possible.

This is why athletes prefer to work with someone like Dr. Cowin, who will do his best to return them back to their high-intensity lives in as few visits as possible.

Below, we explain what sports medicine is in detail, as well as how Action Spine & Sports Medicine is unique.

What is sports medicine?

Sports medicine is the branch of healthcare which deals with the treatment, rehabilitation, and prevention of injuries related to sports, exercise, and physical activity.

This branch of medicine is dedicated to physical fitness, as well as treating and preventing injuries related to sports, exercise, and physical activity in general.

Sports medicine is also called “sports and exercise medicine”.

A medical specialty in many countries, sports medicine was first recognized as a standalone medical specialty in Italy in 1958.

In the United States, sports medicine is a “subspecialty” of standalone medical specialties like physical medicine and orthopedics.

This means a sports medicine doctor will usually start their education by being certified in something like internal medicine, chiropractic, emergency medicine, family medicine, physical medicine, pediatrics, or orthopedics. Then they will train to be a sports medicine specialist.

And athletes and fitness enthusiasts understand the benefits of seeing a highly qualified sports medicine specialist, with years of specified training and experience. Many professional sports teams have a team physician or sports medicine team on staff.

Sports medicine doctors may be known as sports medicine specialists or sports physicians.

Some of these experts may even use sports psychology. They aim to reduce stress and anxiety related to injury and overcome mental hurdles that inhibit performance.

Dr. Cowin’s path to becoming a sports medicine specialist is unique in that he started his undergraduate education and training in sports medicine. He’s been an athletic trainer now for over 20 years, working with professional teams and athletes since the very beginning.

It wasn’t until later that he decided to go back to school for his doctorate and chose chiropractic as his field to specialize in. He chose chiropractic because he felt it would be the path that would provide him with the most well-rounded opportunity while still focusing on a more drug-free approach to healthcare.

Sports Medicine Specialists

There are 6 common sports medicine specialists:

  1. Physical therapists use a variety of targeted exercises and stretches to help people recover from and prevent injuries.
  2. Chiropractors use a variety of both soft tissue techniques as well as bony manipulation techniques to help individuals recover from and prevent injuries. Historically, they focus on the spine to improve back pain, but also extremities for joint pain, mobility, and so much more.
  • Certified athletic trainers are trained to diagnose, rehabilitate, treat, and help prevent athletic-based injuries.
  1. Dietitians and nutritionists advise patients on the science of nutrition and how it affects your health.
  2. Massage therapists manually manipulate muscles and soft tissue to relax and rehabilitate.
  3. Orthopedic surgeons are qualified to diagnose and treat disorders of the bones, spine, joints, muscles, etc. For example, they can perform back surgery and hip replacements.

It is possible for a healthcare provider to be trained in more than one of the above specialties.

Reasons to See a Sports Medicine Specialist

Sports medicine specialists help sports teams and weekend warriors alike recover from sports injuries, train for better physical performance, and prevent future injury.

Sports medicine specialists are experts in treating/preventing sports injuries, such as:

  1. Concussions
  2. Shoulder injuries
  3. Ankle sprains
  4. Hamstring strains
  5. Tendonitis
  6. Overuse injuries
  7. Stress fractures
  8. Cartilage injuries
  9. Torn rotator cuffs
  10. ACL tears
  11. Sciatica
  12. Groin pulls

And this is by no means an exhaustive list.

Sports medicine is also great for injury prevention, as well as strength training or additional training for professional athletes and other active individuals.

Sports Medicine Treatments

There are many ways a sports medicine doctor can get you back to your physical peak.

These are just some of the treatments you may find in a sports medicine practice:

  1. Sports chiropractic
  2. Physical therapy
  3. Massage therapy
  4. Functional taping
  5. Laser therapy
  6. Graston Technique
  7. Dry needling
  8. THC & CBD

1. Sports Chiropractic

Chiropractic care is a critical part of sports medicine. Sports chiropractic is the practice of gently manipulating the spine to either correct or prevent a sports-related injury.

Research shows that seeing a sports chiropractor may provide relief for issues such as:

  1. Sports injuries
  2. Car crash injuries
  3. Post-concussion syndrome
  4. Reduced mobility
  5. Back pain
  6. Neck pain
  7. Joint pain
  8. Plantar fasciitis
  9. Headaches and migraines
  10. Stress and anxiety
  11. Immune dysfunction
  12. Chronic fatigue
  13. Insomnia

2. Physical Therapy

Physical therapy is a sports medicine treatment that aims to relieve pain, increase mobility, and improve your quality of life through guided exercise and stretches.

Are sports medicine and physical therapy the same thing? Physical therapy is one approach and focus of sports medicine. Sports medicine is the broader practice that includes several treatment methods.

Here are a few ways that sports medicine doctors may enhance your physical therapy:

  • Corrective exercise therapy is a form of physical therapy that includes a series of specific stretches and exercise programs. Sports medicine physicians use corrective exercise therapy to facilitate your body’s natural healing process and train your body to prevent future injury.
  • The NormaTec Recovery System is a patented technology used before and after physical therapy. It offers a precise, high-tech leg massage for warm-up pre-workout and recovery post-workout. NormaTec uses compressed air to mobilize fluids and strategically knead your muscles.
  • Myofascial decompression (also known as “cup therapy” or “cupping”) uses a pneumatic pump and vacuum cups to release and decompress the muscles and adjoining tissues. This can be a helpful part of physical therapy, reducing muscle tension and stiffness, while accelerating the natural healing processes.

3. Massage Therapy

A licensed massage therapist can manipulate muscles and soft tissues to speed sports injury recovery and improve mobility, muscle tension, and overall performance. Massage therapy is often part of a broader health and wellness plan for athletes.

Consider these major health benefits of sports massage therapy:

  1. Relaxed muscles
  2. Reduced anxiety
  3. Increased range of motion
  4. Reduced muscle tension
  5. Elevated sleep quality
  6. Stimulated blood circulation
  7. Improved lymphatic activity

4. Functional Taping

Functional taping is a sports medicine treatment that uses special sports tape (kinesiology tape) to support your muscles while still allowing full range of motion.

Sports tape can be strategically applied around your knee, shoulder, or other beneficial areas.

10 proven benefits of functional taping include:

  1. Relieves pain
  2. Decompresses muscles
  3. Increases body awareness
  4. Prevents muscle spasms
  5. Reduces swelling and inflammation
  6. Accelerates recovery of muscles and bruising
  7. Trains muscles
  8. Increases lymphatic function and blood flow
  9. Increases joint mobility
  10. Prevents injuries and overuse while taped

5. Laser Therapy

Laser therapy refers to the non-invasive use of laser energy to promote healing and pain relief.

According to scientific research, laser therapy:

  1. Relieves pain
  2. Reduces inflammation and swelling
  3. Accelerates the natural healing process

Laser therapy also helps treat post-surgical and post-injury pain.

Class IV lasers are currently the industry standard is sport medicine treatments. Make sure if you’re looking for laser therapy, that you find someone who has a class IV laser.

6. Graston Technique

The Graston Technique is a unique, instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization that uses dense stainless steel instruments to identify dysfunctional soft tissue.

Identifying soft tissue problems is helpful for sports medicine physicians in determining their course of treatment and prevention.

The Graston Technique examination typically takes 10 minutes but may also involve warm-up before the examination and/or exercise afterwards.

The Graston Technique is great for the following conditions:

7. Dry Needling

Dry needling is a sports medicine treatment in which thin needles are strategically placed into muscles and trigger points to treat pain and other health problems.

It is considered “dry” because there is no injectable solution in the needles.

This treatment is an approach commonly used in functional medicine, which is why it may be referred to as “functional dry needling”.

Dry needling does not require prescription drugs and is focused on the promotion of whole-person wellness.

Dry needling is used for the following conditions:

  1. Acute pain
  2. Chronic pain
  3. Tendonitis
  4. Back problems
  5. Neuromuscular dysfunction
  6. Headaches and migraines
  7. Whiplash

8. CBD & THC

Cannabinoids are revolutionary tools in the sports medicine community. Dr. Benjamin Cowin is a worldwide thought leader in the application of THC and CBD therapy in sports medicine.

What is CBD? Cannabidiol (abbreviated CBD) is the non-psychoactive compound found in the Cannabis plant. CBD is a science-backed modern miracle.

Evidence-based benefits of CBD include:

  1. Pain relief
  2. Brain health
  3. Heart health
  4. Gut health
  5. Skin health
  6. Reduced inflammation
  7. Mental health (for depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia)
  8. Migraine relief
  9. Potential freedom from addiction
  10. Seizure reduction

What is THC? Tetrahydrocannabinol (abbreviated THC) is the psychoactive compound found in the Cannabis plant. It’s what gives the full marijuana plant its euphoric mental effects.

THC is a remarkably effective sports injury treatment because of its psychological and whole-body calming properties.

THC offers benefits for athletes like:

  1. Pain relief
  2. Improved sleep quality
  3. Reduced anxiety
  4. Nausea relief
  5. Reduced risk of glaucoma
  6. Relaxed muscle spasms

Here at Action Spine & Sports Medicine, we believe CBD and THC will be cornerstones of sports medicine in the near future. That’s why Dr. Cowin has established himself as a worldwide authority for the constructive use of CBD and THC in sports medicine.

Sports Medicine in Denver, CO

If you’re looking for a sports medicine doctor in Denver, Colorado, come to Action Spine & Sports Medicine for cutting-edge sports medicine treatments.

Dr. Benjamin Cowin (DC, MS, ATC, ICSC, CAFS) is an international leader in sports medicine. He owns and practices at Action Spine & Sports Medicine in Denver, Colorado. He’s proud to have served Denver for nearly a decade of his 20+ year career.

Click here or call us today at (720) 541-7098 to set up your appointment at Action Spine & Sports Medicine in Denver. You will not regret it.


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