8 Tips for Choosing a Sports Medicine Doctor

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Sarah Lewis, PharmD on May 11, 2020
  • Woman with lower back pain
    A Personal Decision
    People see sports medicine doctors for a variety of reasons. Maybe you have a chronic disease and want to improve your fitness and reduce your health risks. Or perhaps you want to start or return to physical activities after an injury or illness. Whatever your reason for seeing a sports medicine doctor, choosing the right one is a very important and personal decision. How do you find the best sports medicine doctor who is right for you? Here are some important factors to keep in mind.
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    1. Get Referrals
    Start by asking your primary care doctor for a referral list of sports medicine doctors. You can also ask family, friends and other healthcare providers for recommendations. Take the time to research the doctors’ credentials and experience on Healthgrades.com. As you narrow down your list, call each sports medicine doctor’s office and ask for a consult appointment to meet and interview the doctor.
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    2. Research the Sports Medicine Doctor’s Credentials
    Board certification is one of the most important factors to consider when you are choosing a sports medicine doctor. It tells you that the doctor has the needed training, skills and experience to provide sports medicine care. Active participation as a collegiate or professional sports team physician indicates that others trust the doctor's capabilities. Also confirm that the doctor has no history of malpractice claims or disciplinary actions. You can find the sports medicine doctor’s medical school, training hospital, certifications, and malpractice and disciplinary history on Healthgrades.com and state websites.
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    3. Consider the Sports Medicine Doctor’s Experience
    Experience matters when you’re facing sports or exercise-related health issues. The more experience a sports medicine doctor has with a condition or procedure, the better your results are likely to be. Ask how many patients with your specific condition the doctor has treated. If you need a specific procedure, ask how many of the procedures the doctor has performed and find out about complication rates—complications the doctor has encountered as well as your own risk of complications.
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    4. Consider Gender
    It’s important to feel comfortable with your sports medicine doctor’s gender because you will need to openly discuss personal information. When it comes to sports medicine, your own gender is also an important consideration. Sports medicine doctors are becoming more skilled in caring for women and men differently. Ask the sports medicine doctor about his or her recent training and experience specifically related to your condition and your gender.
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    5. Research Hospital Quality
    Your doctor’s hospital is your hospital. For this reason, consider the quality of care at the hospital or ambulatory surgical center where the sports medicine doctor can provide care. Hospital quality matters to you because patients at top-rated hospitals have fewer complications and better survival rates. Additionally, consider whether the hospital’s location is important to you. Should you need to go the hospital for tests or treatment, you want the location to encourage, rather than discourage timely care.
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    6. Evaluate Communication Style
    Choose a sports medicine doctor with whom you are comfortable talking and who supports your information needs. When you first meet the sports medicine doctor, ask a question and notice how he or she responds. Does he or she welcome your questions and answer them in ways that you can understand? Find a sports medicine doctor who shows an interest in getting to know you, who will consider your treatment preferences, and who will respect your decision-making process.
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    7. Read Patient Reviews
    Reading what other people have to say about a doctor can provide insight into how a doctor practices medicine, as well as how his or her medical practice is operated. Patient reviews typically reflect people's experience with scheduling appointments, wait times, office environment, and office staff friendliness. You can learn how well patients trust the doctor, how much time he or she spends with their patients, and how well he or she answers questions.
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    8. Know What Your Insurance Covers
    Your insurance coverage is a practical matter. To receive the most insurance benefits and pay the least out-of-pocket for your care, you may need to choose a sports medicine doctor who participates in your plan. You should still consider credentials, experience, outcomes, and hospital quality as you select a sports medicine doctor from your plan.
8 Tips for Choosing a Sports Medicine Doctor

About The Author

Sarah Lewis is a pharmacist and a medical writer with over 25 years of experience in various areas of pharmacy practice. Sarah holds a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy degree from West Virginia University and a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She completed Pharmacy Practice Residency training at the University of Pittsburgh/VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. 
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2015 Jun 4
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.