When a growing athlete is injured in practice or competition, getting the right diagnosis and initiating proper care and treatment as quickly as possible is a top priority.
Your athlete’s pediatrician is his or her medical home and the front line for most illnesses and injuries, handling everything from shots to sore throats to sports physicals. But when an athletic injury and its aftermath require more specialized expertise, a referral to a pediatric sports medicine primary care physician may be in order.
But what exactly is a pediatric sports medicine primary care physician, and why should your athletes see one?
“We don’t do general pediatrics,” says David L. Marshall, MD, Medical Director of the Sports Medicine Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “We are a referral source for pediatricians who see athletic injuries or athletic illnesses when the pediatrician might not be comfortable guiding return to play.”
Physicians focused on young athletes
The pediatric sports medicine primary care physicians at Children’s are board certified in general pediatrics or family practice with an additional year of subspecialty training and board certification in sports medicine. They provide comprehensive evaluations for a wide range of injuries and conditions that affect athletes, from soccer players to hockey players to swimmers and dancers. Our team can determine the cause of injury and provide instruction on next steps in the care of young athletes, age 21 and younger, at all levels of competition.
“With most injuries it’s difficult to tell exactly what happened, so they need an evaluation by somebody skilled in musculoskeletal medicine, which is what we do,” Dr. Marshall says. If an athlete gets hurt and experiences swelling of a joint, decreased range of motion of a joint or no improvement after a couple days of modified activity, he recommends a visit to a pediatric sports medicine primary care physician.
In the office and on the field
Dr. Marshall and his colleagues see a lot of athletes in their offices—typically, these are overuse injuries—but a large part of being a pediatric sports medicine primary care physician at Children’s is being out in (and on) the field, providing medical support and coverage to area clubs and school teams at the high school level as injuries happen during the course of competition. Our physicians work hand in hand with Children’s athletic trainers in the community, who cover both practices and competitions, and can quickly connect injured athletes to whatever resources they may need next, whether that be diagnostic imaging, a physical therapist, a sports medicine rehabilitation program or an orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Marshall and his colleagues try to see kids and teens with sports injuries within 24 hours so they can get a diagnosis and a responsible return to play program as soon as possible.
Dozens of high schools, sports clubs and even elite sports organizations like Atlanta United FC work with Children’s because they know that Children’s is the best place to send their injured athletes. No matter the age group or level of competition, the Sports Medicine Program at Children’s provides top-notch, personalized care to young athletes.
“We’re the only program in Atlanta that offers comprehensive services for kids and teens that can take care of athletes from the time they get injured on the field all through their workup and rehabilitation and get them back on the field,” Dr. Marshall says. “Our staff has expertise in managing the growing athlete and has been doing so for over 20 years.
Visit choa.org/sportsmed for help finding a pediatric sports medicine primary care physician.
This content has been clinically reviewed by David L. Marshall, MD.
David L. Marshall, MD, a Pediatric Sports Medicine Primary Care Physician, is board-certified in pediatrics and sports medicine. His expertise lies in the diagnosis and management of nonsurgical musculoskeletal injuries in growing athletes. Dr. Marshall is Medical Director of the Sports Medicine Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and an adjunct clinical professor in the Department of Orthopedics at Emory University. He is on the medical advisory board for the Georgia High School Association and is a founding member of the Pediatric Research in Sports Medicine (PRiSM) organization. Currently, he is focused on performance enhancement through the use of video motion and physical therapy.
This content is general information and is not specific medical advice. Always consult with a doctor or healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns about the health of a child. In case of an urgent concern or emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department right away.