Most sports physicians are in private practice, so they work for themselves or with other medical doctors. Some sports physicians, however, may work for sports clinics, rehabilitation centers, hospitals, and college/university teaching hospitals. Still other sports physicians travel with professional baseball, basketball, football, hockey, and soccer teams to attend to those specific athletes. Sports physicians are employed all over the country.
Many sports physicians begin by joining an existing practice and volunteering with a local sports organization. After several years they may apply to the school board for consideration as a team physician for their local school district. Later, they may apply for a position with a college team until they ultimately seek a position with a national or international professional athletics team or organization. This gradual climb occurs while the individual also pursues a successful private practice and builds a strong, solid reputation. Often, the sports physician's established reputation in an area of specialty draws the attention of coaches and management looking to hire a physician for their team.
Others take a more aggressive and ambitious route and immediately begin applying for positions with various professional sports teams as an assistant team physician. As in other professions, contacts can be extremely useful, as are previous experiences in the field. For example, a summer internship during high school or college with a professional hockey team might lead to a job possibility with that hockey team years later. Employment opportunities depend on the job candidate's skill and ambitions.
Advancement paths vary depending on the nature of an aspiring sports physician's affiliation with athletic organizations (part time or full time). For most sports physicians, advancement will accompany the successful development of their private practices. For those few sports physicians who are employed full time by professional athletic organizations, advancement from assistant to team physician is usually accompanied by increased responsibilities and a corresponding increase in salary.
Tips for Entry
Join the American Medical Association, American Osteopathic Association, American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, and the American College of Sports Medicine to access career information, job listings, publications, and continuing education and networking opportunities.
Visit the JAMA Career Center Web site, https://careers.jamanetwork.com, for job listings.
Talk to sports physicians about their careers. Ask friends and family members if they know a sports physician they could recommend for an informational interview.
Become board certified to show employers that you have met the highest standards established by the medical profession.
Read Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise and Current Sports Medicine Reports (both are available at http://www.acsm.org/join-acsm/who-should-join/clinicians) and the American Journal of Sports Medicine (https://journals.sagepub.com/toc/ajs/current) to learn more about the field.