4 Steps for Becoming a Team Physician for Professional Athletes

Orthopedic Sports Medicine

Here are four ways you can position yourself to treat professional athletes in your community and potentially become a team physician.

1. Gain certification in sports medicine and fellowship training. Team physicians for professional athletes are certified in sports medicine and often have fellowship training under other team physicians. This type of training can give you experience and help gain exposure in the field. "As a fellow, you can go into the training room with the team physicians and see how they interact with the coaches, athletic trainers and players," says Robert Dimeff, MD, director of sports medicine at UT Southwester Medical Center in Dallas. "When you want to become a team physician, you have to sell yourself to the organization and team ownership in terms of your experience."

2. Volunteer at the youth and high school level. A good way to establish yourself in your community is to work with youth competitive leagues and high school teams. "Developing a network in those leagues gets the attention of the people in charge of the professional leagues," says David Geier, MD, director of MUSC Sports Medicine and team physician for the Charleston Battery professional soccer team. Working with the athletic trainers and other professionals in the area also helps build your network.

"If you establish yourself over time, when a position opens up and people are familiar with your outcomes, you might be able to move into that spot," says Joseph Burkhardt, DO, an orthopedic physician and partner with Brookside Surgery Center in Battle Creek, Mo., and team physician for the Battle Creek Revolution professional junior hockey team.

3. Partner with minor league teams. While team physicians often pay for the title of "official team physician" to professional teams, minor league teams don't have the same pull. Minor league teams are in need of high quality physicians and aren't financially able to support a regular team physician, so you can volunteer to provide the initial level of care, says Dr. Burkhardt Some of the players you treat at the minor level will end up in the majors, where you can gain your reputation and an outstanding team physician.

4. Establish yourself as a good physician with one sport. Work exclusively with athletes in a single sport to establish yourself as an expert for those athletes. This training can start at the fellowship level where you might work under team physicians for professional athletes. Then, continue working with the same types of athletes as you begin your practice. "If a surgeon has a lot of experience working with baseball teams, they will be seen as a good candidate to become a team physician," says Dr. Geier.

Subspecializing in an orthopedic area specific to the sport, such as rotator cuff tears for pitchers or ACL tears in basketball players, means team physicians will call on your expertise when one of their players is injured, says Ralph Gambardella, MD, orthopedic sports medicine surgeon and President at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles and orthopedic consultant to the Los Angeles Dodgers. "The world has really subspecialized," he says.

Read Articles Related to Team Physicians:
8 Biggest Challenges Facing Team Physicians for Professional Athletes

8 Points to Consider Before Becoming a Team Physician
16 Orthopedic Surgeons Treating Professional Athletes

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