Sports medicine keeps athletes healthy and competing at the top of their game, whether they’re professionals, students, or weekend warriors. While there is nothing quite like in-person interactions between an orthopedic specialist and an athlete, telehealth sports medicine now plays an essential role in everything from initial assessment and diagnosis of an injury to recovery, pain management, and physical therapy.
Sports are popular among people of all ages. According to Hopkins Medical Center, more than 30 million kids ages 14 and younger participate in sports every year, and about 3.5 million suffer an injury. One in four adults continue to play sports as they get older, and these adult athletes continue to injure themselves.
While the love of sports has continued throughout the years, the diagnosis and treatment for sports injuries has changed. Advances in imaging have made it possible for doctors to visualize injuries without the need for surgery, for example, and minimally-invasive treatments help patients get back on their feet with little pain or recovery time. One of the most significant advances is telehealth sports medicine.
Telehealth uses electronic information and telecommunication technologies to allow secure long-distance contact between doctors and patients. What's more, advances in medical technologies have made it possible to upload important information about your health to your healthcare provider.
Have a doctor on the sidelines, even at away games
Telehealth allows a doctor to travel with a team without leaving the office. A team doctor can now provide immediate care during a sporting event from a remote location. Telehealth frees coaches from the responsibility of determining if a student athlete can return to the game; it can also help adults decide if they need immediate medical care.
Reduce unnecessary trips to the emergency department
Telehealth can reduce unnecessary visits to the emergency department. A recent study showed telehealth reduced unnecessary emergency department visits by more than 6%. Telehealth can help determine whether a patient needs urgent care or not.
Optimize training and nutrition
Improper workout techniques and poor nutrition can reduce the effectiveness of your workout, prevent you from performing your best, or even lead to injuries. Telehealth provides orthopedic sports medicine doctors a way to support workout regimens with training and nutrition advice.
Improve access to healthcare
Sports injuries can make it tough to get around. Telehealth creates a means for mobility-impaired patients to consult with doctors about physical therapy and rehabilitation without the hassle or pain of traveling in a car and walking to the physician's office. Telehealth also allows doctors to check in with their patients during rehab to ensure that they perform physical therapy exercises correctly and safely.
Treat chronic conditions
While most sports injuries are acute, meaning they resolve within three months, many sports injuries are chronic and last for months or years. Sometimes known as overuse injuries, chronic sports injuries can result from wear and tear; in some cases, they may result from poor technique. Chronic sports injuries include:
- Achilles tendon injuries in runners
- Tennis elbow
- Runner's knee
- Stress fractures
Using telehealth allows sports enthusiasts to virtually interact with their healthcare providers throughout the long course of treatment without going into the doctor's office. With easy-to-use equipment and little to no effort, patients can even record and upload information to their doctors to streamline long-term care.
Provide answers about sports injuries
According to a 2003 study, patients immediately forget 40% to 80% of the information provided to them by their doctors, and almost half of the information the patient remembers is incorrect. Telehealth offers a better way to interact with your healthcare provider and ask questions or verify the information you learned.
Offer convenient, exceptional care
An astounding 60% of patients have to wait two weeks for an appointment with their doctors, and only 10% see their regular doctor the same day they need care. Telehealth offers fast, convenient care from your doctor.
Reach out to other members of your healthcare team
Telehealth can help you connect with a pharmacist, nutritionist, counselors, billing offices, and other members of the healthcare team for better overall care. You can even collaborate with specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists.
Telehealth became an essential part of healthcare during the pandemic when it was safer to stay at home rather than travel to a doctor's office. During that time, athletes and sports enthusiasts just like you have started using telehealth for your everyday healthcare needs. Now that the pandemic is winding down, it is safe to say that telehealth is here to stay.