How to Become Sports Medicine Physician | 10 Steps

How to Become a Sports Medicine Physician in 10 Steps

If you are equally interested in sports and medicine, then a career as a sports medicine physician is ideal for you.

It offers you the opportunity to mix the two in a way that is extremely helpful to others to lead an active, healthy life.

However, before you make this decision, there are several things you need to know. This article lists the significant aspects and essential facts about becoming a sports medicine physician.

What Does a Sports Medicine Physician Do

Sports medicine physicians can work for college or professional sports teams. Most enjoy the game from the sidelines and even travel to different venues with the team.

Few careers boast such varied perks, which is one of the most appealing aspects for aspiring sports medicine physicians today.

What does a Sports Medicine Physician do

How to Become Sports Medicine Physician

Sports medicine physicians are medically trained professionals who work to prevent, diagnose and treat injuries from sports activities.

Sports medicine doctors need to study the body’s musculoskeletal system, which includes the bones, muscles and joints. In addition, they are also trained to work in conventional hospital settings.

A career as a sports medicine physician tends to be deeply gratifying as it involves helping others remain active and healthy.

Where can a Sports Medicine Physician work

Sports medicine is considerably newer, and the sports industry is constantly evolving. As with other physician professions, sports medicine physicians can work in different types of healthcare settings.

They can work in hospitals or can find employment at outpatient clinics. Sports medicine doctors can also work with athletic teams at fitness centers, big-sized gyms, and popular athletic events, such as marathons.

How much is the average salary of a Sports Medicine Physician

According to US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports, the average annual salary for sports medicine physicians is around $229,300.

In addition, the top ten percent of sports medicine physicians earn over US$ 329,300 per year.

What is the career outlook for Sports Medicine Physicians

According to statistics from BLS, physicians in sports medicine can expect a 14% growth in vacancies by 2024. This faster-than-average growth offers a motivating outlook for aspiring sports medicine physicians.

As the sports industry grows by billions of dollars every year, the demand for certified and experienced sports medicine physicians will increase significantly.

How to Become a Sports Medicine Physician?

Here are the simple steps to become a sports medicine physician in the US:

1 – Earn a bachelor’s degree

The first step to becoming a sports medicine physician is to acquire a bachelor’s degree with pre-med requisites. This should help you build a strong foundation regarding general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology and physics.

Medical school admissions are competitive. Hence, you must complete the above-mentioned course and get excellent grades to be eligible for admission.

2 – Pass MCAT in junior year

After acquiring the bachelor’s degree, you must score excellent on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

It is best to secure a seat at a reputed medical school. If you are a passionate athlete or sportsperson, this will work to your advantage in later years.

3 – Admission into medical school and earning a doctorate

Most students apply to medical schools right after their senior year as undergraduates. However, you can also choose to take a year or two off between college and medical school.

Aspiring sports medicine physicians must complete either a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree.

These programs include four years of study in biochemistry, biology, pathology, anatomy, physiology, psychology, pharmacology, and medical ethics.

4 – Prepare for the first two parts of USMLE

While in medical school, you can choose to take parts one and two of the US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE).

Part one of the USMLE is administered before your third year of medical school. Part two of USMLE usually occurs in the last two years of medical school.

5 – Apply for residency

After medical school, you must apply for a residency program in a broader specialty such as family medicine, internal medicine, emergency medicine, pediatrics, or physical medicine and rehabilitation, as direct residencies in sports medicine do not exist. Following residency, a fellowship in sports medicine is required for specialization.

6 – Complete clinical residency

Once you acquire your medical degree (MD or DO),, you must complete the residency program.

This is a great opportunity to gain hands-on experience in various medical settings and under the supervision of expert, certified sports medicine physicians.

Residencies in emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, and pediatrics typically last 3 years, while physical medicine and rehabilitation residencies usually last 4 years. Orthopedic surgery residencies, another pathway leading to a career in sports medicine, typically last 5 years.

Both types of residencies provide suitable training to aspiring sports medicine physicians.

If you are surgically inclined, you may need to complete a 5-year residency in orthopedic surgery.

During the residency period, you can even secure a clinical rotation in sports medicine to gain relevant experience in the field.

7 – Pass the final part of USMLE

The third and final part of the USMLE is held at the end of the residency period. You must pass this exam to practice sports medicine in the US.

8 – Complete fellowship to get certified

After completing a residency, physicians must complete a fellowship in sports medicine to become eligible for the Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) in Sports Medicine. The length and specifics of fellowships can vary, so it’s important to consult specific program requirements.

You can pursue the fellowship program at a rehabilitation facility, hospital or a university-based athletic department.

9 – Get a state license

Every state in the US requires medical doctors to get licenses. Hence, sports medicine physicians must consult their state’s licensing board to know the specific criteria and requirements.

10 – Pursue advanced career opportunities

Once you have successfully acquired state licensure, you can choose to practice sports medicine by establishing your private practice. You can also choose to join groups to become a partner.

On the other hand, you can also apply for employment at large hospitals. This is an incredibly effective way to advance your career.


The global sports industry is enormous and constantly growing. With an ever-increasing passion for sports, there is a significant demand for certified and trained sports medicine physicians in the US and worldwide.

So, if you are passionate about sports and helping people lead healthy, active lives, you can become a certified sports medicine physician.

See Also

Insurance for Physicians

How to Become a Dermatologist

College Grants for Black Students

Does Medicare Cover CPAP Machines

How to Deal With Rude Patients

Best Books for Physicians

Mental Health Support for Doctors

Surgeon Salary

What is a Resident Doctor

Average Pay for Doctors

Current Version
January 23, 2022
Written By
Shubham Grover
March 28, 2024
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.

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