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Professions of the Sports Medicine Team

by Bob Gurney

As a follow-up to the previous article, indicating the need to identify health care professionals in the field of sports medicine, the following questions are explored:

  1. What are the professions in health care services that have evolved into specializations and constitute the broad field of sports medicine?
  2. How are these professions defined?
  3. How do I find out more about these professions?

Common knowledge found in textbooks of sports medicine, such as Prentice (2006) provide a brief overview of sports medicine and roles the professions play in their contribution to the field of sports medicine. Sports medicine as a concept is presented in the context of various professions contributing to the health and care of sports enthusiasts, and athletes. Although some may argue that one or more particular profession(s) dominate in the practices of sports medicine, the current textbook literature clearly indicates that each profession plays an important role in the field of sports medicine. The medical doctors are indicated as the primary health care providers (Prentice, 2006) in treating injuries of sporting enthusiasts and athletes.

Specialty fields of medicine (family medicine and orthopaedists) and physical therapy are well established historically, in the treating of sports related injuries. In the second half of the twentieth century traditional professions and new fields of allied health emerged through specialized training programs and became established in the team of professions working in sports medicine (Prentice, 2006). Medical doctors expanded their specializations into a new field of ‘sports physician’, where one must complete the requirements of post graduate training in this field. The profession of physiotherapy expanded to sports physiotherapy (Prentice, 2006) which involves the development and supervision of physical therapy rehabilitation for the injured athlete. Both the medical and physiotherapy practices are viewed historically as the traditional professions that have provided care and management of the injured athlete. Podiatry evolved into sports podiatry, as a specialized field, dealing with the study and care of foot injuries. Exercise and sports science is a field that emerged in the 1970s and provides athletes with training and conditioning techniques specific to the performance demands of a sport. Psychology expanded its specialty areas to sports psychology and provides advice on matters related to mental preparation for sport performance and the psychological aspects of the rehabilitation process for the athlete. Dieticians expanded their knowledge sets into sports nutrition and provide consulting advice for dietary programs that are geared to the needs of persons in a particular sport or physical activity.

This general knowledge of understanding professions, as described above, informs us that differences exist between the traditional professions of health sciences, and modern emerging professions in the field of sports medicine. To develop a better understanding of these professions a list of professional associations and web sites are indicated below. I have selected professional groups in Australia for two reasons. Firstly, my research work involved these groups and, secondly the information provided by these professional groups is both comprehensive and informative.

Australasian Association for Podiatric Sports

Australasian College of Sports Physicians:

APA – Sports Physiotherapy Australia:

APS College of Sports Psychologists:

Exercise and Sports Science Australia:

Sports Dietitians Australia:

Sports Doctors Australia:


Prentice, W.E. (2006). Arnheim’s Principles of Athletic Training. (12th ed). Toronto. ON: McGraw Hill.

Author: Bob Gurney



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