Sports medicine is a great career for people who love sports and want to help athletes stay healthy. Traditionally, as in many branches of medicine, the field has been largely male-dominated in the past, but the times are finally starting to change. Women like Dr Diane Dahm, the NBA’s only female orthopaedic surgeon, are starting to make a name for themselves in sports medicine by helping the field to advance.
Because there is a growing physician shortage in the United States that has led to more opportunities in medicine than ever. Now is a great time for women to get into sports medicine. Even at the high school and collegiate level, there’s a need for sports physicians. Nearly 8 million youth participate in sports, and they are over 1 million youth sports injuries every year. So what do you need to excel in this challenging but fulfilling field? Here are 5 essential skills women should build for a career in sports medicine.
1. Active Listening
Physicians today have lots of sophisticated equipment for diagnosing and treating illness. But listening to patients is still the most important way doctors can diagnose injuries and illnesses. By listening carefully to the patient’s symptoms and building a relationship, doctors can more effectively get the information they need to make a diagnosis.
Building trust between doctor and patient is extremely important, especially in professional sports. The players work closely with team physicians and need to be able to feel comfortable with them. Active listening helps to build that trust and ultimately leads to better care for players. Especially young players who may not know how to express the symptoms they’re experiencing.
2. Critical Thinking
Humans operate mainly on emotions, which can be a problem in a medical setting. Women who want to get into sports medicine should strive to hone their critical thinking skills. These skills will help them to evaluate each medical situation based on logic and facts, not on anecdotes.
Doctors get themselves into trouble and are more likely to make errors when they simply compare patients to each other, rather than evaluating the facts and making judgments based on objective factors. In sports medicine, errors can mean the end of a career, which is why critical thinking is so crucial.
3. Judgment and Decision-Making
Every doctor needs to make tough decisions, but in sports medicine, the decisions are sometimes even more difficult. Players need to get back onto the field or court as quickly as possible—and sometimes, they may not have the luxury of weeks of downtime to ensure they’re healthy enough to play.
Women who want to get into the field need to understand when to give the go-ahead and let a player get back into the game, and when to hold back so they can get the rest and healing time they need. Pressure from coaches and the team can be intense, but a doctor needs to feel comfortable using her own judgment in making the call, even when the right decision isn’t fully clear.
In sports medicine, doctors often need to check in with their patients on a regular basis to ensure that they are staying healthy and that any injuries are healing as they should. Doctors need to learn to proactively communicate and monitor their patients to help them stay in peak condition for games and practice.
5. Reading Comprehension
While reading comprehension might not be the most obvious essential skill in sports medicine, it’s listed here for a reason. Women who get into sports medicine need to be able to evaluate an athlete’s full health record quickly, especially during a sports physical. Since it’s crucial for an athlete to be healthy before they play, sports physicians need to know how to find key information quickly and piece different health factors together.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling in Sports Medicine
Today, women are slowly but surely making their way into traditionally male-dominated fields. These days, women can thrive in fields like sports medicine, business, and technology, as long as they have persistence and the right information and tools.
If you’re interested in sports medicine but you’re feeling put off by how few women currently work in the field, it’s important to remember that the tides are changing. And it’s never been a better time to find your place in this in-demand field.
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Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.