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Sports medicine and injuries

Diagnosis of sports medicine and injuries

Sports injury diagnosis depends on the location, type, and severity of the injury. Your sports medicine specialist will likely begin with a comprehensive physical exam to test your range of motion and look for signs of trauma such as swelling, deformity, redness, and bruising.

Your doctor will ask detailed questions about how the injury occurred, whether it just began or came on gradually, and what activities provoke pain.

Many injuries will require imaging to get a better picture of how your bones or connective tissues are affected. Imaging scans for sports injuries depend on the type of injury and location in your body, but include x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, and ultrasounds.


Sports medicine doctors design treatment plans that may include the services of other doctors, physical therapists, and athletic trainers. The plan varies depending on your diagnosis.

Many sports injuries will resolve on their own with rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE). Others may require more extensive treatment and rehabilitation, such as physical therapy, bracing, or surgery.

Not all sports medicine doctors perform surgery. Orthopedic surgeons who have completed sport medicine fellowships can treat sports-related injuries with surgery.

Some standard sports medicine treatments include: 

  • Arthrocentesis to remove fluid from a joint and test it for infection and other markers
  • Guidelines on exercise and training, including strength and cardiovascular training and improving flexibility
  • Healthy lifestyle plans to achieve greater health and fitness levels
  • Medications, including anti-inflammatory medicines and steroid injections
  • Physical therapy to improve strength, mobility, and fitness
  • Post-surgical rehabilitation and recovery to help people return to sports and exercise. This includes rehab after surgery for ligament injuries, bone fractures, carpal tunnel syndrome, hip and knee replacement, back pain, and back problems.
  • Return-to-play decisions for sick or injured athletes
  • Sports nutrition guidance, including advice about supplements and hydration
  • Sports team healthcare, including sports physicals, injury assessment and management, and sports psychology and substance abuse issues
  • Stabilization and initial treatment for severe injuries on the sports field. On-site care can also include suturing cuts, splinting broken bones, and bandaging.

Dignity Health treats sports injuries as part of our expert, caring sports medicine services. Find a location near you.

The information contained in this article is meant for educational purposes only and should not replace advice from your healthcare provider.