Definition and Overview

Sports medicine follow-up is a visit to a specialist for the monitoring, and in some cases, to obtain further treatment for sports-related injuries and diseases.

Sports medicine deals specifically with medical conditions that are associated with athletic performance. These can be injuries and diseases that can potentially affect the athlete’s endurance, strength, and flexibility, as well as their overall health and well-being, especially in the long term. It should be noted, though, that athletic performance is not limited to professional athletes; this is also applicable to regular people who are engaged in different types of sports, whether consistently or occasionally.

Although the concept of sports medicine has been around for some time, it was not until the 20th century that it became more popular and was acknowledged as a critical part of health care. Since there are many sub-fields under sports medicine, the patient may work with different specialists for follow-up care.

An example is kinesiotherapy, which concerns mostly on improving a patient’s endurance and mobility after an injury, as well as physical therapy, which deals with the rehabilitation of the injured area such as the muscles around the shoulders or legs. The patient may also work with an athletic trainer, nutritionist or dietitian, orthopedic surgeon, and osteopathy specialist.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Sports medicine follow-up is recommended for:

  • People who have undergone surgery – Not all types of sports injuries require surgical procedures. For example, strains and sprains can heal over time with proper outpatient remedies like a hot or cold compress. However, in certain situations, surgery is the best and only option such as when the patient suffers from fractures or a traumatic injury affecting the vital organs like the brain. Because surgery has many possible risks and complications, a follow-up care is crucial to ensure that healing will be as comfortable and as fast as possible.

  • Athletes who have underlying conditions – Certain medical conditions can affect athletic performance and increase the patients’ risk of getting injured. These include diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and hypertension. A person with diabetes, for example, may experience hypoglycemia (deficiency of glucose in the bloodstream) as exercise can consume plenty of energy supply in a short amount of time. Follow-up care can be applied to these conditions so appropriate treatment, management, and monitoring can be accomplished. In the process, follow-up care can also be a preventive measure.

  • Children and teens who engage in sports – According to Johns Hopkins Hospital, more than 30 million teens and children are at risk of injuries, and at least 33% of these can be attributed to sports. These injuries, which can range from sprain and strain to fractures and traumatic brain injury, can reduce participation time and even lead to serious long-term effects. A follow-up care is necessary to track the progress of recovery, help patients regain all or most of the functions affected by the injury, and monitor their rehabilitation.

  • People who are at risk of sports-related diseases – Certain diseases are attributed to constant exposure to sports, especially contact sports. These include Parkinson’s disease and muscle inflammation. Follow-up care can be helpful in detecting their development early so prompt treatment can be provided.

  • Those who need clearance – A follow-up care can be conducted to help certify a patient that he’s fit to continue or return to sports activities.

How Does the Procedure Work?

Follow-up care is an integral step for those who require surgery and rehabilitation. It is discussed even before the treatment begins as a way of preparing the patient for what could be weeks or years of therapy and medical care.

It also begins as soon as the initial treatment is over. This means that the follow-up care may be provided in an inpatient or outpatient setting. As an example, a person who suffers from a broken bone on the leg and is in a cast may already undergo therapy on an outpatient basis. After all, one of the main goals of follow-up care is to help the patient return to his routine.

Follow-up visits may be carried out for a few weeks to months or years, depending on the patient’s progress, complications, and overall prognosis. Usually, it starts off in closer intervals like every week until the in-between periods get longer like twice every year.

In each of the follow-up visit, patients are typically required to fill out a specific questionnaire to provide their doctors the following information:

  • Specific concerns that the patient wants to talk about during the follow-up visit
  • Any feeling of discomfort, pain, or symptom even if the patient thinks they are not related to their sports injuries or existing condition
  • Level of pain or discomfort
  • Frequency of the recurrence of the pain or discomfort
  • Effects of the symptoms or discomfort to the general activities of the patient
  • Other symptoms related to cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and reproductive systems, to name a few
  • Medical history review
  • Any addition to the family history
  • Mental health


The answers on the questionnaires will then be thoroughly discussed by the patient and the doctor. If necessary, the doctor may request for tests to investigate the signs and symptoms, the results of which may be discussed on the next visit.

During follow-up care, the doctor may modify some of the components of the treatment or management plan, such as therapy, other medical care, and medications.

Possible Risks and Complications

Follow-up care requires time, effort, and money; three things that may not be easily provided by the patient. For this reason, many patients struggle to keep up with their schedules. It’s essential that the doctor and the patient continuously work on the most ideal schedule, and that the doctor takes a more persistent approach to get patients to commit to follow-up care, especially once they begin to show disinterest to continue. Both the doctor and the patient should also work on establishing an excellent rapport to further motivate the latter to work closely with his doctor.

Reference:

  • Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Sports participation evaluation. In: Ball JW, Dains JE, Flynn JA, Solomon BS, Stewart RW. Seidel's Guide to Physical Examination. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2015:chap 23.
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