Sports Medicine vs Orthopedics – What is the difference


Our body is composed of living cells and extracellular properties and structures into different organs, tissues, and systems. The organ systems are what keeps us alive and kicking. It gives us all the vital functions and purposes that an organ system needs. But in this article, we’ll only talk about two essential organ systems, the musculoskeletal system, which is composed of the muscular system, and the skeletal system. According to Gordana Sendic, a medical student from the University of Belgrade, the musculoskeletal system is a human body system that gives the human body mobility, stability, shape, and support. The musculoskeletal system is divided into two body systems: the muscular system, the body system responsible for the movement of joins in particular, and the skeletal system, which provides our body with a solid and durable skeleton, which helps the body to keep mobile and stable. But, sometimes, unfortunate things happen, then our body systems become ill and need to be treated immediately.

In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at orthopedics, sports medicine, and how they are correlated with each other. We’ll also tackle the different procedures done in sports medicine and orthopedics.

What is Orthopedics?

According to William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR, that orthopedics is the branch of medicine and surgery concerned with the skeletal system and its neighboring body systems. This means that orthopedics is a specialization that deals with the care and treatment of not only the skeletal system, but also conjoin parts from the muscular system such as bones, muscle, joints, ligaments, and tendons. Another definition by Kathleen Davis, FNP, of Medical News Today, that orthopedics is a medicinal approach that focuses on the treatment and manipulation of the musculoskeletal system. This means that orthopedics doesn’t necessarily need a surgical approach to treat patients with musculoskeletal ailments. They can also be treated with non-surgical approaches such as physical therapy and rehabilitation.

Orthopedics has a quite rich history. From the primitive times to the Egyptians, to the systematic approach of Greeks and Romans for the improvement of orthopedic anatomy and orthopedic surgery. 

Orthopedics was initially focused on the effect of polio on children, but research has been conducted over the years and has advanced greatly and now also studies the different musculoskeletal ailments and conditions in individuals of all ages, especially elders in nursing homes who are immobile.

What is Sports medicine?

According to a specialist from, sports medicine centralizes on assisting athletes to condition their athletic performance, recover from injuries, and prevent future injuries. They also stated that sport medicine specialists not only treat people related to sports injuries, but they also treat people with injuries that aren’t related to sports.

Also, according to a specialist from the University of Rochester Medical Center that sports medicine health care providers are experts in preventing injuries and illness in physically active people. They also stated that sports medicine health care providers treat people who are involved in sports, and people who also have physically demanding jobs such as construction workers. However, sports medicine isn’t a medical specialization. But, sports medicine specialists are certified in a medical specialty such as internal medicine or family medicine. Some specialists also specialize in pediatrics because bodies of growing children or teenagers can differ from adults.

Here are some injuries and illnesses that a sports medicine specialist can treat:

  • Ankle sprain
  • Fracture
  • Knee and shoulder injury
  • Tendonitis
  • Exercise-induced asthma
  • Heat illness
  • Concussion
  • Eating disorder
  • Cartilage injury

Most of the time, mild sports injuries do not require surgery. Usually, pain relievers, cold compresses, and casting the injury is a common treatment for a sports injury. For more serious cases, surgery may be required to repair torn tissues and realignment of bones.

How is Sports medicine and Orthopedics related?

A study was published by Vasta et al, with the title, Top orthopedic sports medicine procedures, stated that orthopedic sports medicine is a subspecialty of orthopedics that centralizes on managing clinical conditions of the musculoskeletal system with the involvement of sports practices. This means that orthopedics and sports medicine are correlated with each other in such a way that they both are for the treatment and care of the musculoskeletal system. This also means that this is for the conditioning of their bodies to stay physically active in sports.

Here are the common orthopedic sports injuries on the different parts of the body.

Orthopedic and Sports Medicine injuries

  • Meniscal injuries, which are common in sports injuries where the meniscus, cartilage in the knee, is twisted and torn.
  • Anterior cruciate ligament injury (ACL) tears, a tear, or sprain in the anterior cruciate ligament which causes your knee to swell, and feel unstable.
  • Posterior cruciate ligament injury (PCL), just like ACL, the posterior cruciate ligament tears or stretches the ligament resulting in swelling and unstable balance.
  • Femoroacetabular impingement (FAI), a condition wherein your hip joint pinch the tissues or cause friction, resulting in pain in the groin.
  • Achilles tendon rupture, wherein the ligament that connects your heel and your calves rupture and strain, resulting in severe pain where you can’t bend your foot downward.
  • Osteochondral ankle defect, is a lesion of the talar cartilage and subchondral bone caused by multiple traumatic events, which results into a partial or complete detachment of the cartilage.
  • Superior labral anterior to posterior (SLAP) lesions, wherein the superior portion of the labrum, which is attached to the biceps, is damaged.
  • A herniated disc, where the disc nucleus is pushed out of the annulus, into the spinal cord through a rupture in the annulus.

Summary and Conclusion

The musculoskeletal system is a human body system which gives the human body mobility, stability, shape, and support, and is essential for body movement. Orthopedics deal with care and treatment of the musculoskeletal system which is essential for sports medicine, wherein injuries in the musculoskeletal system frequently happen among athletes. Hoping that this article gave you an insight into orthopedics, sports medicine, and its relationship with each other.

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