Dr. Michael Klassen MD Describes the Difference Between Sports Medicine and Orthopedics

dr michael klassen md describes the difference between sports medicine and orthopedics

In today’s day and age, there are many different specialities of medicine. Two of the most used and beneficial specialities are orthopedics, which focuses on the musculoskeletal system, and sports medicine, which focuses on athletes. Though these two medical specialities may seem similar, there are some distinct differences between them.

Dr. Michael Klassen, MD, FAAOS is a California-based orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist. He graduated from the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine in 1989 and completed his residency at the University of California San Francisco School of Medicine in 1995. Throughout his more than 20 year career, Dr. Klassen has grown to be a trusted leader in both orthopedics and sports medicine. He’s here to describe the differences, and similarities, between these two vital specialities.

What Is Orthopedics Medicine?

According to Dr. Klassen, orthopedics is the specialty of medicine that deals with conditions involving the musculoskeletal system. This includes:







While injuries can occur in both athletes and non-athletes, it’s important to note that orthopedic medicine is designed to help everyone. The goal of orthopedic medicine is to help people with musculoskeletal injuries move better and feel better, according to Dr. Klassen. 

Orthopedic doctors can diagnose, provide treatments for chronic pain, repair complex fractures and offer non-surgical or surgical options for their patients. Primarily, these treatments are designed to restore movement, lessening pain and improving overall quality of life.

What Is Sports Medicine?

Sports medicine, on the other hand, is a specialty of medicine which focuses on athletes. It helps to diagnose, treat and prevent injuries related to sports and athletics. While both orthopedics and sports medicine are focused on treatment of musculoskeletal disorders, sports medicine has a preventative aspect as well. This includes helping athletes improve their performance by optimizing their training plans and nutrition. In addition, sports medicine can also help treat injuries, seeing as there were over 3.2 million trips to the emergency room due to sports injuries in 2021 alone.

However, it isn’t just athletes that can benefit from sports medicine. It can also help those who are recreationally active, such as runners, hikers, and gym goers. In addition, sports medicine can help people with disabilities, offering treatments for mobility and strength. Children are also able to benefit from sports medicine, which can help them recover from mild and severe injuries.

Though these two specialties both focus on the musculoskeletal system, there are some key differences between them, including the following.

Mechanism of Injury

Sports medicine deals with treating injuries because of physical activities while orthopedics concentrates on musculoskeletal disorders regardless of how they were caused. The mechanism of injury is known as the “how” of the injury. Sports-related injuries often have a specific etiology, such as an ACL tear due to rapid change of direction while running, while orthopedic injuries may have multiple causes such as car accidents, falls or degenerative joint disease.

Treatment Options

Sports medicine typically utilizes non-surgical treatments such as bracing and physical therapy for injury prevention, while orthopedics is often not focused initially on prevention. Both offer surgical options when necessary. Most sports injuries can successfully be treated with simple rest, icing, stretching, and strengthening exercises. Orthopedic injuries may require more degenerative and may require complex treatments such as reconstructive surgery or joint replacement.

Of course, sports injuries can also be more severe, leading to surgical intervention as well. But in general, the rehabilitation process and treatment options for sports injuries tend to be more conservative than those offered by orthopedics.

In addition, sports medicine doctors specialize in helping athletes return to their activities safely after an injury has healed while orthopedists are able to offer advice on lifestyle changes and medications to help manage pain associated with musculoskeletal disorders. For instance, while an athlete might suffer a stress fracture due to continued exercise, someone with osteoporosis might struggle with continued osteoporotic fractures due to their illness. As such, it’s vital to have a treatment plan tailored to each individual’s needs.

Can Sports Injuries Be Treated With Orthopedics?

Yes, orthopedic surgeons are able to treat sports-related injuries, as well. As mentioned earlier, they may offer both surgical and non-surgical treatments. For instance, some sports injuries require reconstructive surgery while others can be treated with bracing and physical therapy. In addition, joint replacement or other procedures may be necessary when joint damage has occurred.

It’s important to understand the differences between sports medicine and orthopedics in order to receive appropriate treatment for your injury or musculoskeletal disorder. Both specialties are essential for helping people with physical injuries or disorders get back on their feet. So if you’re suffering from any musculoskeletal issues, consult a specialist from either sports medicine or orthopedics to find the best treatment plan for you.

Dr. Klassen Provides Orthopedic and Sports Injury Treatment in California

Sports medicine and orthopedics are both integral specialties when it comes to treating physical injuries or musculoskeletal disorders. Dr. Michael Klassen MD, an orthopedic surgeon in California with specialized training in both sports medicine and orthopedics, provides comprehensive treatment for a range of musculoskeletal issues. 

Whether you’re an athlete dealing with a sports-related injury, or someone suffering from a chronic joint issue, Dr. Klassen and his team are here to help! Call us today.

For more information on Dr. Michael Klassen MD, please visit his website at 

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