Sports medicine is an interesting field, as it lets you work with athletes to maximize their welfare and minimize or heal their injuries during training.
The first thing to know about sports medicine is that it’s not a specialty in itself. You don’t graduate in sports medicine. Generally, sports medicine experts are certified in another medical specialty, and then go through additional training.
But that doesn’t mean that all colleges are equal. There are degrees that will deal more in-depth with the typical issues plaguing athletes. Attending a college with a good sports science or physical therapy program is the first step into entering the field.
Editor’s note: while sports medicine sounds an awful lot like physical therapy, there is a massive difference. Physical therapy is all about restoring body functions through stretching and exercise. Sports medicine is more advanced, as it can involve surgery and other advanced treatments for athletes.
In this article, you are going to learn what are the colleges with the best programs for people who want to become professional sports medicine doctors. We’ll also show you the best programs to become one.
How to Become a Sports Medicine Doctor
Since we mentioned that there is no faculty that teaches sports medicine yet, you’ll need to complete a specific academic path to become one that involves various steps.
- Get a bachelor’s degree
There are courses that are required to access the more advanced degree you will need to become a doctor.
Picking the right bachelor’s degree will let you take these courses and understand how they relate to the profession. It’ll also save you a lot of headaches when you apply for your Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine.
I can’t tell you what degree to pursue, since everyone has its own preferences. What I can tell you though, is to pick a degree that will prepare you for the more advanced medical studies. Get a strong foundation in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Anatomy, as all of these will apply to your medical profession.
- Pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT)
The MCAT is a standardized test assessing the candidates’ skills on fields that are important to a doctor. You’ll demonstrate your knowledge on science, communication, and reasoning.
The test is administered by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) in January and from March to September in many locations across the country.
On the AAMC website you’ll also find resources and mock tests to practice for the test.
- Complete an MD or DO Program
You’ll need to complete either an MD or a DO program to get access to the right certification to become a sports medicine professional.
- Complete your Residency and get your Certification of Added Qualifications
Every single doctor has to complete their residency, and sports medicine doctors are no different. Every specialty has its own time for residency, with that in sports medicine lasting 3 years.
Once you’ve completed the 3 years, you’ll be able to get a fellowship in sports medicine, which takes about 2 years. With these 2 extra years under your belt, you’ll be able to get your Certification of Added Qualification in Sports Medicine.
- Get your License
You’re almost there! Depending on your degree (MD or DO), you need to pass the respective examination to get your license.
As you can see from this process, becoming a sports medicine doctor takes a long time. It makes sense to pick the right college for you, since you’ll spend at least 12 years between studying and internships before becoming a practitioner.
What Makes a College Good for Sports Medicine?
Sports medicine is still a relatively novel field, which is why it’s not a specialty at the moment. Perhaps we’ll see it in the near future, but as of now you’ll have to pick a different course.
But why would you prefer a college over another? Aren’t all medical studies the same?
There are colleges that offer courses that are more closely related to what a sports medicine doctor does. You’ll see when we actually get to the list.
The Medical Courses It Offers
Yes, medical doctors are…doctors. That much is evident. But as you know, there are many types of doctors. Some colleges offer medical programs that will prepare you better for the profession compared to others.
Let’s take the University of Southern California. This university has an entire department dedicated to sports science, and offers a program where students will learn everything about biokinesiology (the study of movement at the molecular level) and physical therapy.
Compare it with an average Master of Science, and you’ll understand that the former will give you a much deeper understanding of how the human body works, and how you’ll be able to improve the athletes’ welfare.
You want to pick a course that will prepare you for the more advanced learnings you’ll do when you specialize as a sports medicine doctor.
You’ll find out by reading our list that the favored programs are those in athletic training.
The Topics you’ll Learn About
Medical science is a vast field with many different subjects interacting with each other.
Example of courses you’ll have to complete to gain a fuller understanding of the profession include: kinesiology, exercise physiology, anatomy, nutrition, and injury prevention. These are just some examples.
Think about everything concerning the life of an athlete. You want the people in your care to perform to the best of their abilities. To do so, you’ll have to make sure they lead a healthy lifestyle, which not only encompasses the training field, but every facet of their lives.
The School’s Brand
This isn’t necessarily an objective method of measuring how good a school is, but it’s nonetheless something to consider. Graduating from Harvard looks better on your resume than graduating from Morris college.
If a lot of people vouch for the school you want to attend, then it’s probably a good idea to at least consider applying to it.
Are you still unsure about what schools can be considered the best? Search for their acceptance rates. The lower they are, the more prestigious the school is. Schools with high acceptance rates tend to have lower graduation rates. That’s both because they offer lower-quality education, and because they let anyone in.
Although of course, it depends on your economic situation as well. The biggest name schools are quite expensive, and unfortunately sports medicine doctors don’t earn nearly as much as specialists in other fields. This is a calculation that I can’t help you make.
The 6 Best Sports Medicine Colleges
In this list, you are going to learn what are the best sports medicine colleges, and what makes them so. We’ve tried to be as inclusive as possible, with many different options so that anyone could find the perfect fit for them.
Naturally, we only picked accredited schools. It should go without saying, but here we are.
Editor’s note: this list isn’t ranked. It’s impossible to rank these universities, since the programs are too different to be compared.
The university of Southern California is a great place to continue your academic journey towards becoming a sports medicine doctor. Once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree with a science major, you can apply for a Master of Science in Biokinesiology.
This is probably the best overall master you can pick if you want to become a sports medicine doctor, since you will learn about how movement works at a molecular level. It will prepare you for the more advanced learnings.
Your work as a sports medicine doctor is to help athletes both with their injuries, as well as avoiding them. Having a deep understanding of movement, and what types of movements are best to prevent injuries will make you extremely valuable for athletes.
Another task of sports medicine doctor is to make sure athletes have the best possible performance. That’s another thing a master in biokinesiology will teach you. Knowing movement at all levels will help you figure out how to maximize the athletes’ potential.
Sam Houston State University is a great choice if you are looking for a bachelor’s degree that will prepare you for a bright academic and work future as a sports medicine doctor.
This university offers a bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training, which is a bachelor of science. The focus is on collaborating with physicians to treat everything linked to athletic injuries. You’ll become an expert in the field of athletics, the typical problems in the field, and how to fix them.
Earning this bachelor will set you up for a path towards sports medicine. It’s a great entry point to the profession.
Keep in mind though that admissions to this program are limited, and the competition is tough. You must complete a pre-professional athletic curriculum before applying. Pick this program if you are a hundred percent certain about your future.
Boston University offers a master in Athletic Training. This program offers a great mix of learnings about medicine, sports, and the human body. It gives you an excellent preparation to become a sports medicine doctor.
What makes this program great is how well it integrates classroom education with on-the-job experience. You’ll operate closely with real-world physicians and learn from them. You’ll follow them in their work day, and observe how they deal with issues at all stages of the athlete’s journey.
Warning: while the University says that a “degree in any discipline” is enough to apply, you’ll need transcripts proving you have completed the prerequisite coursework. When you pick your undergraduate, get one that already includes at least some of the required courses.
The university of Pittsburgh has a department of Sports Medicine and Nutrition. The department makes the university one of the best in the field of sports medicine. We are what we eat, so knowing a lot about nutrition makes an athlete’s life so much easier.
The department keeps creating revolutionary programs thanks to its intense investment in research and technology.
The university of Pittsburgh offers a complete education that encompasses both a bachelor degree and masters. You can opt for a BS in athletic training, followed by an MS in the same field. Or you can get an MS in sports science.
If you are looking for one of the best schools for sports medicine, then Pittsburgh is easily one of them.
This is one of the few universities that offers a comprehensive program that specializes on sports medicines. Most other schools on this list have courses that are closely related to the profession, but they aren’t as laser focused as this one.
Another perk of picking this university is the number of residency programs available to its students. There are 8 family medicine residency programs, 5 of which located in the Twin Cities. Each location specializes in treating specific things.
Picking a residency in North Memorial, for example, would get you on-the-job experience on sports medicine and osteopathic medicine, both of which are crucial for anyone wanting to become a sports medicine doctor.
The university of Michigan offers a master’s program in athletic training. The marvel of this program is how it builds expertise on the topic by offering the perfect mix of research, classroom education, and real-world experience.
In fact, the school’s mission is to provide opportunities to work in a variety of clinical settings and gain familiarity with traditional and non-traditional venues.
By completing this master’s program, you will be equipped with the knowledge necessary to ace your sports medicine exam, and provide personalized help to athletes.
We’ve reached the end of our list. Every single university in this article offers world-class education that will prepare you for a successful career in sports medicine.
Before applying to any of these analyze yourself. Is this really the path you want to follow? Becoming a sports medicine doctor isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. As you’ve read in the earlier sections of the article, the procedure is rigorous, and takes a lot of years.
Enrolling into any of these universities will set you up with a huge commitment. Fortunately, until the absolute end of your academic path, you’ll be able to switch to a different career, so it’s not the end of the world.
On the other hand, there is a great deal of satisfaction to be gained from becoming a sports medicine doctor. You are helping athlete perform at their absolute best. You might even be the next world record holder’s personal doctor. That’s pretty cool, isn’t it?
So, what are you waiting for? Enroll in one of the best sports medicine colleges today, and enjoy a long and fruitful career.