Sports Science - Other

With athletes at all levels continuing to push their bodies to go faster, be stronger and perform better, the related fields of sports medicine and sports science will continue to grow in the years ahead. This good news for people looking to go into this field is reported by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which says that growth in these fields will be above average over the next decade. BLS (https://www.bls.gov/) notes that this is especially the case for athletic trainers and physical therapists.

Sports medicine has increasingly been in the news with the advent of Tommy John surgery that has helped prolong the careers of athletes. Known in the medical community as ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) reconstruction, the Tommy John surgery (named after a famous baseball pitcher who was the first to benefit from the surgical graft procedure done by orthopedic surgeon Frank Jobe in 1974) replaces the UCL in the medial elbow with a tendon from elsewhere in the body. It has now become a common procedure among college and professional athletes in many sports - most notably in baseball.

Physicians who specialize in sports medicine are highly-trained in the diagnosis and treatment of sports-related injuries. After medical school, a physician can specialize in this field. The course of study has a major focus on orthopedics and cardiology. Graduates can diagnose and treat injuries that happen during sports events, athletic training and physical activities. They can treat and manage illnesses and diseases that affect physical performance. This specialty in now in demand at hospitals, clinics and for professional sports teams.

The closely related field of sport science studies physiology and biomechanics in relation to the ability of the human body to adapt to physical activity, movement and motion. Together, sports medicine and sports science apply scientific and medical principles to sports, exercise, and the ability of the body to physically perform at its maximum potential.

Education and Job Options

At the undergraduate level, some universities offer students a Bachelor’s of Science in Kinesiology. This degree provides students with an interdisciplinary understanding of human movement through the study of physiology, anatomy, biomechanics, movement analysis, exercise physiology, motor learning, ethics, and sports psychology. Students earning this degree gain a personal training certificate. This will help them to obtain jobs as teachers, coaches, physical therapists, dance therapists, or health and fitness club instructors. In addition, it will lay the foundation for students who want to further their education in sports medicine.

Students who earn a BA degree from universities that offer a broader offering of courses in the sports and health science field gain insights into the sports and exercise industry and the science behind fitness. They become knowledgeable about psychology, nutrition, finance, and management as it relates to sports. For those interested in the management side of this field, options include being a fitness center manager or a sports administrator who oversees the funding and organizing of sports activities and events.

For students whose goal is a sports medicine career, their coursework should focus on biology, biochemistry, physiology, anatomy, and math. This is a challenging course of study, but it can be highly rewarding. A career in sport medicine enables students to fuse their interest into a healthcare career with the information, training, and skills needed to enter this stimulating and life-enhancing field.

Students who want to get into this field, but don’t desire to become physicians or have the grades to get into medical school, can pursue many other job opportunities in the sports medicine and sports science field. These include:

  • Physical therapists, who help people rehabilitate from injuries or diseases of the joints, muscles, bones, and nerves. People in this field must pass a national exam to become licensed and work in hospitals and clinics.
  • Dieticians and nutritionists, who assist athletes in creating a diet plan that is best for their level of activity and that will keep their bodies strong and trim. People who earn a degree in this field can work in schools, clinics, sports facilities, hospitals, and public health facilities.
  • Strength and conditioning coaches, who create and monitor a training plan that enhances the agility and strength of an athlete, as well as their flexibility, endurance, and power. Success in this field usually requires a Master’s degree, and a certification by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (https://www.nsca.com/).
  • Personal trainers, who work with individuals and groups seeking to improve their endurance, strength and health. People in this field can be independent operators or work in a fitness club. To succeed in this field, students must earn a ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine - http://acsm.org/) or ACE (American Council on Exercise – www.acefitness.org) certification.
  • Athletic trainers, who treat, manage, and prevent injuries of athletes in high school, college, and the professional level. They are playing a key role in the identification and initial screening of concussions - particularly in football. Most states require passing a National Athletic Trainers’ Association (https://www.nata.org/) certification exam.  
  • Exercise physiologists, who study acute and chronic physiological responses and adaptations that occur from multiple levels of physical activity. People in this field work with employees in both commercial and clinical settings to improve their health and fitness.

Salary Ranges for Sports Medicine/Science Jobs

PayScale (www.payscale.com) puts the pay of a physician of sports medicine at the median salary of $184,217 a year. According to this website, an average salary for a physical therapist is $72,534 while a wellness director makes an average salary of $52,407 a year.

SimplyHired (www.simplyhired.com) reports that the average salary for the entire field is $70,402. At the lower end of the salary scale are fitness trainers who make $35,064 on average a year, a health coach who earns an average of $32,125 a year, and a dietician who earns on average $61,867 a year.

*According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for both dieticians and nutritionists will grow at an average rate over the next decade, as opposed to an above average rate for the rest of the field.

 

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