Sport and exercise medicine
Sport and exercise medicine (SEM) involves the medical care of injury and illness in patients who undertake or wish to undertake physical activity. These medics also manage and improve the health of the general public through exercise advice and prescription.
This page provides useful information on the nature of the work, the common procedures/interventions, sub-specialties and other roles that may interest you.
Nature of the work
A consultant in sport and exercise medicine possesses excellent clinical history-taking and examination skills, enabling accurate diagnosis. They take a holistic approach to patient care and understand the specific physical attributes required to participate in a variety of sports.
A multidisciplinary approach and a broad-based specialty, SEM practitioners work in a variety of settings across primary, secondary and tertiary care.
Sport and exercise medicine became a recognised medical specialty in 2005. Alongside treating sport and physical activity related injuries and common conditions, it aims to reduce risks to health and promote healthy participation in sport and exercise. The role includes:
- providing accurate diagnosis for individuals with musculoskeletal injuries or illness who would like to exercise, or for whom exercise would be beneficial
- overseeing and implementing Rehabilitation programmes
- workplace wellness
- making their clinical expertise available to other clinicians and allied healthcare professionals
- providing support to elite sportsmen and women to assist them in maximising performance (within international rules), reducing injury time and minimising the co-morbidity associated with elite sporting participation
- promoting the highest level of ethical standards within sport by contributing to sporting organisations and teams
- promoting improvements in public health through encouraging physical activity and exercise in the general population
- developing and implementing public health physical activity programmes
- liaising with and supporting the work of health authorities, sporting organisations and other community agencies involved in the promotion of healthy lifestyles and safety standards in sport
- participating in audit, research and training to contribute to development of SEM as a speciality.
Doctors in sport and exercise medicine treat conditions such as:
- sprains (partial tears) and ruptures (complete tears) of muscles and ligaments
- bone fractures
- tendons relate injuries
- MSK disorders and conditions
- female athlete triad
- heart disease
- stress and mental illness
“Disorders of breathing are another aspect of sports and exercise medicine, where patients may have conditions such as asthma or vocal chord dysfunction”.
Mike Loosemore, holds two consultant posts, at University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the English Institute of Sport.
Common procedures and interventions
- clinical history and physical examination
- musculoskeletal injection
- biomechanics and gait assessment
- musculoskeletal ultrasound
- compartment pressure measurements
- spinal injection skills
- cardio-pulmonary exercise testing
- physical fitness and arthropometric assessment
- physical activity programmes and exercise referral
- exposure to and potential to deliver alternative therapies, including osteopathy and western medical acupuncture
Want to learn more?
Find out more about:
- the working life of someone in sports and exercise medicine
- the entry requirements and training and development
- a first-hand account of life in sport and exercise medicine
- Pay and Conditions Expand / Collapse
This section provides useful information about the pay for junior doctors (doctors in training), SAS doctors (specialty doctors and associate specialists) and consultants.
NHS Employers provides useful advice and guidance on all NHS pay, contracts terms and conditions.
Medical staff working in private sector hospitals, the armed services or abroad will be paid on different scales.
- Where the role can lead Expand / Collapse
Read about consultant and non-consultant roles in sports and exercise medicine, flexible working and about wider opportunities.
Managerial opportunities for consultants include:
- clinical Lead - lead NHS consultant for the team
- clinical Director - lead NHS consultant for the department
- medical Director - lead NHS consultant for the Trust
Most NHS consultants will be involved with clinical and educational supervision of junior doctors.
Here are some examples of education and training opportunities:
- director of medical education - the NHS consultant appointed to the hospital board who is responsible for the postgraduate medical training in a hospital. They work with the postgraduate dean to make sure training meets GMC standards
- training programme director - the NHS consultant overseeing the education of the local cohort of trainee doctors eg foundation training programme director. This role will be working within the LETB/deanery
- associate dean - the NHS consultant responsible for management of the entirety of a training programme. This role will be also be working within the LETB/deanery
SAS doctor roles
SAS doctors (Staff, Associate Specialists and Specialty Doctors) work as career grade specialty doctors who are not in training or in consultant posts. You will need at least four postgraduate years training (two of those being in a relevant specialty) before you can apply for SAS roles.
Find out more about being an SAS doctor.
Other non-training grade roles
These roles include:
- trust grade
- clinical fellows
If you have trained on an academic sports and exerice medicine pathway or are interested in research there are opportunities in academic medicine.
For those with a particular interest in research, you may wish to consider an academic career in sports and exericise medicine. Whilst not essential, some doctors start their career with an Academic Foundation post. This enables them to develop skills in research and teaching alongside the basic competences in the foundation curriculum.
Entry into an academic career would usually start with an Academic Clinical Fellowship (ACF) and may progress to a Clinical Lectureship (CL). Alternatively some trainees that begin with an ACF post then continue as an ST trainee on the clinical programme post-ST4.
Applications for entry into Academic Clinical Fellow posts are coordinated by the National Institute for Health Research Trainees Coordinating Centre (NIHRTCC).
There are also numerous opportunities for trainees to undertake research outside of the ACF/CL route, as part of planned time out of their training programme. Find out more about academic medicine.
The Clinical Research Network (CRN) actively encourages all doctors to take part in clinical research.
There are opportunities to be employed by the NHS, academic institutions, private sector, universities, the armed forces, sporting teams, organisations and national governing bodies. A portfolio career – working for several employers – is possible.
- Job market and vacancies Expand / Collapse
This section provides useful information about the availability of jobs, finding vacancies and where to find out more.
Job market information
Sport and exercise medicine is one of the smallest specialties in the UK with a range of opportunities for securing employment. Opportunities are currently limited within the NHS therefore it is common for SEM doctors to work in a variety of settings.
There are currently 6 Sport and Exercise Medicine Consultants and 18 medical registrars in England (NHS Digital, 2016). Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine (FSEM) has over 560 members, made up of consultants, doctors who have passed the FSEM’s Diploma Exam and doctors with a special interest in Sport and Exercise Medicine, (all must complete the required number of sessions in SEM to qualify for membership).
Women make up 14% of the consultant workforce, 31% of the higher speciality trainees in the UK (2014/15 RCP, 2016).
The ratio of applicants to ST3 post in 2015 was 2.4 (34 applicants for 11 NTN and 3 LAT posts) (JRCPTB).
There are 56 Sport and Exercise Medicine doctors working for the NHS (including CCG’s and the MOD), 10 have full time NHS positions and the remainder work from 5 to 9 programmed activities per week. (source: Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine members Survey 2015).
The Centre for Workforce Intelligence revealed that most of the doctors in training are London-based. They recommended no change in the number of trainees but predicted that there would be a modest increase in the number of consultant posts.
(The work of the CfWI does not necessarily reflect the views of the Department of Health as has been the case where the DoH has felt that the numbers are over or under estimated.)
The Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine estimated a need for 150-300 consultants but this is unlikely to be realised in the foreseeable future.
For information regarding Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland please click on the links below.
Where to look for vacancies
All candidates apply through the online application system Oriel.
Local education and training boards (LETBs)/deaneries will have details of training vacancies. Not all LETBs/deaneries will offer new training posts in all specialties in all years.
All jobs will be advertised on the NHS Jobs website.
Northern Ireland has its own recruitment process. For further details please visit the Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency website.
Job vacancies are also advertised on the Faculty of Sport and Exercise Medicine website.
- Further information Expand / Collapse