For Patients Physiotherapy Wellbeing & Fitness

So, what exactly is Sport and Exercise Medicine?

Written by Dr Philippa Bennett for Doctify

Most people have heard of physiotherapists and orthopaedic surgeons – but did you know there was a branch of medicine fully dedicated to sport and exercise? Here to tell us a little more about the specialty is Dr Philippa Bennett.

What is Sport and Exercise Medicine?

Sport and Exercise Medicine (SEM) was granted speciality status in 2006. This has meant that junior doctors can now train specifically to become consultants in SEM. There are also a number of doctors who joined the speciality from other areas for example rheumatology, emergency medicine and general practice.

What do they do?

Most SEM physicians work closely with their orthopaedic surgical colleagues particularly seeing those sporting injuries and musculoskeletal problems that do not require surgery. We specialise particularly for those non-operative conditions.

Examples include:

  • Acute injuries (such as ankle sprains and muscle strains)
  • Overuse injuries (such as tendonosis, stress fractures)
  • Medical and injection therapies for osteoarthritis

Are there any other areas covered by Sport and Exercise Medicine?

We also specialise in non-musculoskeletal aspects of the care of athletes and for those who would simply like to be a little fitter.

Examples include:

  • Concussion (mild traumatic brain injury) and other head injuries
  • Athletes with chronic or acute illness (such as glandular fever, asthma or diabetes)
  • Nutrition, supplements, ergogenic aids, and performance issues
  • Exercise prescription for patients who want to increase their fitness
  • Injury and illness prevention
  • “Return to play” decisions in the sick or injured athlete
  • Understanding of rehabilitation exercises and protocols
  • Healthy lifestyle promotion and workplace wellness.

What would seeing a SEM specialist entail?

As SEM physicians we try to minimise risk and maximise performance. We work closely with other support staff including physiotherapists, psychologists, osteopaths, nutritionists, analysts, biomechanists and  strength and conditioning coaches.

SEM physicians are able to diagnose, treat, refer appropriately, and coordinate care. We understand the remits of our colleagues and can provide that holistic approach which leads to better all round care. Whether it is understanding what excellent conservative rehabilitation should look like or knowing when a surgical remedy is needed, a SEM physician can be the key to an athlete performing at their best. We are of course only part of the team. The team behind the team.

What about scans?

We are often the first port of call when a scan is needed. Knowing which scan is best given the clinical scenario and interpreting the results with that clinical picture is paramount. Also, knowing when we should get some blood tests to rule out other medical issues. We also need to know when and how to prescribe medications including injections.

We also work closely with our surgical, radiology,  rheumatology and pain specialist colleagues; knowing when and who is best to refer to for certain conditions.

Sport and Exercise Medicine is a small but growing specialty. We believe movement is medicine and we want everyone to keep moving. To get fit, stay fit and play fit. So whether you just need to get moving again, run a 5K for the first time, get on the starting line for next years London marathon or be on the podium in Tokyo 2020, please consider seeing a Sport and Exercise physician for help and advice.



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Book an appointment with Dr Philippa Bennett