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Why Growing Athletes Should See a Pediatric Sports Medicine Primary Care Physician (PCP)

As your teen athlete grows, a sports medicine PCP can help him take the best care of his body after an injury or as his training intensifies.

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 medical home and the front line for most checkups, illnesses and injuries, 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.

Teen athletes are not small adults, as they have different physical and emotional needs. They also have growth plates and other anatomical differences, so it is important to take them to a pediatric specialist who is experienced in diagnosing and treating teens and their injuries.

Teen athletes playing football

“We don’t do general pediatrics,” says Ashley Brouillette, MD, a Sports Medicine Primary Care Physician in the Sports Medicine Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. “We are a referral source for pediatricians who see athletic injuries or athletic illnesses and might not be comfortable guiding return to play.”

Physicians specially trained to focus on youth 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 in all sports and can determine the cause of injury and provide instruction on next steps in the care of growing athletes at all levels of competition.

Another key difference: pediatric sports medicine primary care physicians from Children’s are out in (and on) the field, providing medical support and coverage to club and school sports teams.

“Our training is geared specifically toward evaluating pain and injuries in teen athletes. We work closely with athletic trainers in schools and gyms across metro Atlanta, as well as with physical therapists. This allows us to provide comprehensive care from the time of the injury through rehabilitation, and get them back onto the field or stage as soon as possible,” says Dr. Brouillette.

Though both types of doctors are well trained in musculoskeletal medicine, sports medicine PCPs specialize in the nonsurgical treatment of musculoskeletal conditions, while orthopedic surgeons focus on operative treatment. Approximately 90% of all sports injuries are nonsurgical, so a sports medicine PCP can maximize nonsurgical treatment, guide appropriate referrals to sports physical and occupational therapies, and if necessary, expedite referral to a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.

What is musculoskeletal pain?

Musculoskeletal pain in kids and teens refers to anything that affects your athlete’s bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves.

What are the most common musculoskeletal problems and therapies for teen athletes?

  • Acute injuries, such as ankle sprains, muscle strains, knee and shoulder injuries, and fractures
  • Overuse injuries, such as rotator cuff and other forms of tendonitis, as well as stress fractures
  • Medical and injection therapies for osteoarthritis

Sports medicine primary care physicians have received additional training in the nonmusculoskeletal aspects of sports medicine.

What are common nonmusculoskeletal concerns in young athletes?

  • Concussion (mild traumatic brain injury) and other head injuries
  • Chronic or acute illness, such as infectious mononucleosis, asthma or diabetes
  • Nutrition, supplements, ergogenic aids and performance issues
  • Exercise prescription for patients who want to increase their fitness
  • Injury prevention
  • Return-to-play decisions in the sick or injured athlete
  • Recommendations on safe strength training and conditioning exercises
  • Healthy lifestyle promotion

For a safe and speedy recovery from a sports injury, early detection is key. This can be difficult because sports injuries are not always traumatic—they can have subtle symptoms that progress over time.

Your teen athlete should see a sports medicine specialist if:

  • He suffers an acute injury that prohibits him from returning to sports.
  • Symptoms such as pain, swelling or decreased range of motion do not go away after rest, modified activity or treatment at home.
  • His training or performance is affected by an injury that has not been diagnosed or treated.

Whether your young athlete plays one sport or 10, where you take him matters.

The highly qualified and experienced pediatric sports medicine specialists at Children’s are dedicated exclusively to youth and teen athletes. Each member of our team is focused on getting kids back to doing the things they love most in the safest ways possible.

Find a Specialist

Ashley Brouillette, MD, a Pediatric Sports Medicine Primary Care Physician in the Sports Medicine Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, specializes in the treatment of young athletes. Dr. Brouillette completed her fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital and served as Team Physician for Texas Southern University covering football, women’s soccer and women’s basketball. She has also served as team physician at high schools in Nashville, Tenn., and Houston, Texas. Dr. Brouillette acts as the team physician for many metro Atlanta high schools.

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. Some physicians and affiliated healthcare professionals on the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta team are independent providers and are not our employees.