Sports Medicine Surgeon: Salary, Requirements and Career Overview

Oct 20, 2021

If you like sports and are interested in medicine, then becoming a sports medicine surgeon could be the career for you. A sports medicine surgeon specializes in treating athletes and sports-related injuries. You'll need a doctorate with a study focus in sports medicine, state licensure and board certification.

Essential Information

Sports medicine surgeons are orthopedic surgeons who focus specifically on treating athletes and sports-related injuries. Full medical training, including a residency and a fellowship, is necessary to prepare for a career in diagnosing, treating and preventing sports injuries. Sports medicine surgeons must hold a medical license and have the option of earning board certification in orthopedic surgery.

Required Education Doctor of Medicine degree, internship and residency in orthopedic surgery; fellowship with a focus on sports medicine surgery
Licensing/Certification All states require licensing for physicians; board certification is available
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 4% for all physicians and surgeons*
Median Salary (2021) $381,000 for all orthopedic surgeons**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **

Sports Medicine Surgeon Salary

According to, in 2021 professionals with 1 year experience earned $307,000, while those who have 1-4 years experience earned $346,000. Tenured employees with 20 years experience or more earned $445,000 annually.

Sports Medicine Surgeon Requirements

The first step a person must take in order to become a sports medicine surgeon is to take pre-med courses and other science courses in college. While a bachelor's degree is not absolutely required, most of those who get into medical school have earned a bachelor's degree. It is important that students get experience related to medicine while completing their undergraduate education. These experiences can include volunteering in a hospital or clinic, taking on leadership roles and shadowing physicians.

The next step is to graduate from medical school. This usually takes four years, with the first two years consisting of classroom and laboratory education in the sciences and the last two years consisting of clinical experiences and direct patient contact. After graduating from medical school, a person must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) in order to practice medicine.

The aspiring sports medicine surgeon must then complete a one year internship and an orthopedic surgery residency. The residency lasts an additional four years and gives new doctors the opportunity to learn new skills and knowledge that are specific to orthopedic surgery. After completing their residency, orthopedic surgeons may take an examination administered by the American Board of Medical Specialists (ABMS) to become board certified in orthopedic surgery.

Finally, a fellowship in sports medicine should be completed. This fellowship usually lasts for a year and allows orthopedic surgeons to focus specifically on sports medicine and hone their skills in that area.

Sports Medicine Surgeon Career Overview

Sports medicine surgeons specialize in treating sports-related injuries, catering predominantly to athletes. Sports medicine is a subspecialty of orthopedics and focuses on the musculoskeletal system. The main goals of the sports medicine surgeon are to examine, treat and prevent sports-related injuries. Sports medicine surgeons rely heavily on X-rays as diagnostic tools to identify injured tendons and bones. They must often provide surgery, prescription medications and physical rehabilitation to treat these injuries. Sports medicine surgeons may also help athletes improve their performance by providing diet and supplement recommendations.

Those interested in pursing a career in sports medicine surgery will need to complete a substantial amount of education: bachelor's degree, medical degree, internship, residency, and fellowship. Additionally, sports medicine surgeons, like all others in the expanding field of physicians and surgeons, need to obtain licensure in order to practice medicine. Board certification is also available and may boost employability.

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