Sports medicine vs. Ortho


Sports Medicine vs. Orthopedics: Overlapping Specialties But with Key Distinctions for Patients to Know

Baptist Health Orthopedic Care

Should you see a sports medicine physician or an orthopedic surgeon for knee pain, a sore shoulder, or hip issue -- or any other musculoskeletal condition? Both orthopedic surgeons and sports medicine physicians specialize in the treatment of the musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.

A key distinction is that a sports medicine physician will more likely see a patient who is very active in sports or exercise regiments. And they tend to focus more on non-surgical treatments – possibly involving physical rehabilitation or drug therapy, or a combination of both. An orthopedic surgeon will often see patients referred by colleagues in the sports medicine specialties for more serious injuries that may require surgical intervention.

Maria Kyriacou, M.D., a primary care sports medicine physician at Baptist Health Orthopedic Care.

Two Baptist Health physicians clear up any confusion between the two specialties: Maria Kyriacou, M.D., a primary care sports medicine physician, and James Ross, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon – both with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care.

Do most patients understand the difference between a sports medicine physician and an orthopedic surgeon?

“Many understand I am non-operative, but I do receive a few patients under the impression I perform orthopedic surgery,” said Dr. Kyriacou, who specializes in non-surgical treatments for acute, overuse and chronic orthopedic problems, and has a special interest in sports-related injuries, joint arthritis, musculoskeletal ultrasound, and ultrasound-guided procedures. “The misunderstanding I receive from many patients is appreciating that I treat both acute and chronic injuries. For example, if I am treating the patient for osteoarthritis, they are unaware I can I also treat an acute injury playing pickleball two days ago.”

James R. Ross, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon with Baptist Health Orthopedic Care.

Dr. Ross specializes in sports medicine and joint preservation surgery of the shoulder, elbow, hip and knee. He  is one of the few orthopedic surgeons to have been awarded a Subspecialty Certificate in Orthopedic Sports Medicine.

“Some patients understand the difference between a sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon,” said Dr. Ross. “Some sports medicine physicians are not surgeons. These physicians can undergo a fellowship in Sports Medicine and have a background in family medicine, internal medicine or even emergency medicine.  Many of these physicians will perform and treat nonsurgical orthopedic related issues, but also specialize in the management of athletes and their medical illnesses including concussion management.”

As a sports medicine physician, Dr. Kyriacou usually treats very active individuals, or "weekend warriors" – including patients who have started to become active to get into shape and find themselves getting injured.

“We treat both – the very active and the not-so-active,” said Dr. Kyriacou. “Anything non-operative under musculoskeletal injuries we are happy and eager to treat and manage. That includes both acute and chronic musculoskeletal issues. We see a variety of patients, in all walks of life, that we treat. This does include our weekend warriors, but also our active individuals managing acute or chronic injuries, as well as our young athletes. We do get an uptick of injured individuals that may have paused their activities or started an activity and were not prepared.”

As an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Ross also often treats active individuals, as well as older patients who may be take a fall or suffer from chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis.

“One of the significant benefits of being orthopedic surgeon is the ability to treat patients of all ages,” explains Dr. Ross. “Orthopedic surgery is becoming more and more specialized …The majority of my patients are active individuals. However, being active over many years can also result  in the development of chronic conditions, such as osteoarthritis, which we treat predominantly non-surgically in the office with activity modification, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, and injections.  However joint replacement surgery is also a great option for patients who have osteoarthritis and failed all nonsurgical measures.”

What are common injuries seen by Drs. Kyriacou and Ross?

Dr. Ross: ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and meniscus tears in the knee; rotator cuff and labral tears in the shoulder; and labral tears in the hip.

Dr. Kyriacou: “Since I see all musculoskeletal injuries, it is difficult to say the most common injury I see. However, with pickleball on the rise, I see many patients injuring the ankle, knee and hips.

To facilitate getting patients back to active lifestyles, both sports medicine physicians and orthopedic surgeons rely heavily on physical therapy.

Dr. Kyriacou: “Part of my counseling always includes rest and rehabilitation. When a patient experiences an injury, the tissue (ligament, tendon, muscle) will need time to heal, and the rehabilitation portion is imperative for proper strengthening in a safe manner, as well as gaining the tools needed to prevent recurrent injuries.”

Dr. Ross: “Physical therapy is an extremely important process of the post-operative course.  After I see the patient in the office at their 6-week or perhaps 3-month follow-up, I usually always call their physical therapist to express my thoughts and always make sure that we are on the same page.  This is my favorite part of my practice -- watching the patients recover after their surgery and eventually get back to doing with they love to do without the symptoms that they were having before surgery.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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