The Orgins of Sports Medicine

Origins of Sports MedicineThe origins of sports medicine date back to ancient Greece and ancient Rome where sports training and athletic competitions first became popular. Although the first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens, Greece in 1896, it was not until the 1928 Winter Olympics in St. Moritz, Switzerland, when the First International Congress of Sports Medicine was formed and the term “sports medicine” was coined. Thereafter, the idea of using physicians to help prevent the occurrence of injuries was realized.

Because of the increasing demands of athletics and the advances in sports training, particularly in the US, it became apparent that advances in the medical care of world-class athletes were required. The demand for specialists with the advanced skills to deliver the necessary level of care has only increased over the years, particularly with the increased popularity of amateur sports in the US.

That heightened demand led to sports medicine fellowship training programs and the global education of doctors internationally. Many companies such as Johnson & Johnson sponsor training programs that are specifically focused on the subspecialty of sports medicine. Internationally based meetings, courses and exhibits in the field of sports medicine have become commonplace led by US specialists. Such programs have created a pool of advanced highly trained US specialists who are dedicated to their patients and volunteer their time and expertise concentrating of the wellbeing of the athlete-patient. Moreover, as a result of these training programs and increased expertise, there has been an explosion of innovation of sports medicine ranging from arthroscopy, to modern ACL and minimally invasive joint procedures.

Specialization and focus on U.S. Athletes

Just as sports medicine has experienced an evolution in specialization, so too, has American amateur sports. The explosive growth in amateur sports coupled with the difficulties inherent in multiple governing bodies led to the recognition that a single regulatory body was required. In 1978, the US government acknowledged that US athletes require special attention and ultimately passed The Amateur Sports Act in which the US Olympic Committee was appointed as the governing body for all Olympic-related athletic activity in the US. The USOC was also given the responsibility of promoting and supporting physical fitness and public participation in athletic activities by encouraging developmental programs in its member organizations. (For more information about the history of sports medicine and the USOC, refer to Dr. James Andrews' lecture that he delivered in Beijing during the 2008 Olympic Games. Also take a look at the lecture series.)

Over time, a more sophisticated approach to amateur sports in the US converged with major developments in sports medicine and the focused training of surgical specialists. Sports medicine became multi-disciplinary, and extends well beyond treating injuries to helping to prevent them, and to coaching and preparing athletes as they compete. Today, sports medicine physicians are responsible for reduced injuries and improved performance results, which reinforces that ready access to a highly trained sports medicine specialist is an essential aspect of being an athlete. It is the increased focus on caring for US athletes and providing specialized care that led to the Urgent Orthopedics Program for the 2008 US Olympic Team in Beijing.