Sports and sports medicine are intertwined, and the business of sports continues to expand in the United States and around the world. That includes professional and collegiate programs in soccer, baseball, basketball, hockey, football, tennis and a number of other sports.
One fact of life in sports is that injuries will happen. Athletes get hurt, and preventing those injuries, or treating them when they happen, is the main focus of those who go into sports medicine.
According to federal government projections, there’s a bright future in many of these careers. Sports medicine offers both competitive salaries and big growth rates within the profession. With colleges and even high schools recognizing the need to provide special medical care to athletes, these occupations are expected to continue growing at double-digit percentage rates in the coming years.
The following are four such careers. All salary figures come from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Occupational Handbook.
The use of data in sports has led many players – and the teams that employ them – to adopt a data-driven approach to staying healthy. Part of this is a carefully managed daily diet. Nutritionists work with teams and individual players to develop a diet plan that maximizes performance while also helping prevent injury.
Most people in this career earn a bachelor’s degree. They also require specialized training and certification to work in most states.
The BLS projects the number of nutritionists will grow 15 percent between 2016 and 2026. Salary in this career also is very competitive, with the median annual salary for nutritionists at $58,920 in May 2016.
Trainers specialize in preventing and treating muscular and orthopedic injuries. They work with the players themselves, as well as coaches, other trainers and doctors on a training plan for the player. As medical professionals, they work not only with training but with applying bandages, braces and other medical devices on players to either prevent an injury or help them recover from one.
Athletic trainers typically earn a bachelor’s degree. Some also earn a master’s degrees to attain the top jobs and pay level that the career offers.
Athletic trainers are very much in demand. The number of people in the job will grow by 22 percent between 2016 and 2026, according to the BLS. Athletic trainers earned a median wage of $45,630 in May 2016.
Those who work in physical therapy often work outside the sports world, of course. They specialize in helping people increase movement after an injury. This can include exercises that stretch or otherwise manipulate parts of the body. Doing so safely requires a great deal of expertise – physical therapists need a master’s degree, certification and licensing before working in most states.
Demand also is high in this area. The BLS projects 25 percent growth in the occupation between 2016 and 2026. Physical therapists also are well compensated for their expertise. They made a median annual salary of $85,400 in May 2016.
Sports Medicine Physician
Some who become doctors end up using their skills to focus on providing healthcare to high-level athletes. This requires highly specialized skills in both offering methods and physical habits that can prevent injury, while also helping players recover from injuries and surgeries.
Sports medicine doctors may also work with teams to develop overall healthcare plans for all players that get include best practices for exercise, diet and medical treatment.
Going into this field requires earning a doctorate in medicine, as well as substantial clinical experience.
While the BLS does not separate sports medicine doctors from other physicians, the bureau projects 15-percent growth in the overall physician field between 2016 and 2026. Doctors are well paid. The median annual income for doctors in May 2016 was $208,000.
These represent some of the growing occupations in sports medicine. While earning these jobs requires extensive education and training, they all offer a stable and sometimes lucrative career path.