Advance with MUSC Health

Meet the Dream Sports Medicine Team: MUSC’s Winning Playbook for Sports Recovery and Success

Advance With MUSC Health
May 28, 2024
Athletic team in a circle putting hands in together

Meet the team behind the scenes of every sports victory and recovery. Vanessa Gruskiewicz, MS, ATC, from MUSC Health Sports Medicine, breaks down how our multidisciplinary experts, including athletic trainers, physical therapists, sports medicine physicians, orthopedic surgeons, and more, collaborate to ensure athletes receive top-notch care from the moment of injury to full recovery. Discover how we get athletes back in the game safely and swiftly.

Meet the Sports Medicine Team

Many people are aware of sports medicine, but not everyone knows who makes up the Sports Medicine team. Who are the individuals who run onto the field or court during a sporting event to tend to an injured athlete? Who further evaluates and treats the athlete? The answer is the Sports Medicine team.

The Sports Medicine team is made up of multidisciplinary health care professionals who work together to provide the best possible care to patients. This team generally consists of athletic trainers, physical therapists, primary care sports medicine physicians, orthopedic surgeons and other subspecialists.

Initial Injury Assessment

The athletic trainer is usually the first individual to see an athlete with an injury. They evaluate the injury and determine if further evaluation is necessary. If further evaluation is necessary, the athletic trainer refers the patient to a physician, generally a sports medicine physician or orthopedic specialist.

The physician will take into account the injury history provided by the athletic trainer and perform their own evaluation. The physician will then determine if imaging scans are necessary and if surgical intervention may be needed. If no further intervention is needed, the physician will provide the athletic trainer with physical activity limitations and care instructions for the patient.

It is the job of the athletic trainer to appropriately care for the patient with the provided limitations and properly return them to play with physician clearance. The athletic trainer will also communicate the necessary information regarding the patient’s limitations to the coaching staff so that the patient can safely return to play.

Further Evaluation and Treatment

If rehabilitation exercises are deemed necessary by the physician, then it is also the job of the athletic trainer to perform those exercises with the patient. The athlete cannot fully return to play without the physician’s medical clearance.

On the other hand, if surgical intervention is deemed necessary, then the physician will refer the patient to a surgeon, and they will perform the appropriate intervention. Following the surgery, the patient will likely be referred to a physical therapist where the patient will go through an individualized rehabilitation plan based on the surgical procedure, the athletes' physical deficits and the demands of their respective sport and position.

Rehabilitation and Return to Play

Once physical therapy is complete, the patient can be cleared by the surgeon and the physical therapist return to sport-specific physical activities. The athletic trainer will then implement on-field or court return to sport activities, as the athlete progresses back to full participation.

All of these health care professionals work together to coordinate care for the athlete to ensure patient safety and overall care. It is important that these individuals communicate with each other and ensure they all have the same end goal; returning the athlete to playing and minimizing risk for further injury.

Learn more about the MUSC Sports Medicine team.