Using sports medicine to improve health outcomes

June 10, 2014

Men who are reluctant to visit a doctor frequently will make an exception when it comes to treating sports-related injuries.

 

Men who are reluctant to visit a doctor frequently will make an exception when it comes to treating sports-related injuries. And that presents an opportunity for primary care physicians (PCPs) to begin a relationship that can lead to improved health outcomes.

“I think a sports injury is an ideal time [to begin establishing a relationship] because many of those problems do require follow-up,” says Reid Blackwelder, MD, FAAFP, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians and a family practitioner in Kingsport, Tennessee. Along with treating the problem at hand, “I need to make sure I’m addressing anything else that’s obvious or make recommendations about other appropriate aspects of the patient’s care,” he says.

Matthew Ajluni, DO, medical director of IHA After Hours Care, a trio of urgent care centers in Ann Arbor, Michigan, notes that sports injuries sometimes are a patient’s only connection with a medical professional. Knowing that, IHA staff members screen for blood pressure and body mass index on every patient. If those send up warning signs, “we’ll try to align the patient with one of our primary care colleagues,” he says. “So it [treating sports injuries] is definitely a gateway for getting these patients regular preventive medicine.” (Half of each IHA clinic is devoted to walk-in or urgent care, and half to regular primary care.)

While the “gateway” concept of treating sports injuries is useful, PCPs need to walk a fine line when it comes to transitioning to other health issues, cautions Marc Childress, MD, a family practice and sports medicine physician in Fairfax, Virginia. “We have to be very careful, because we want to be aware of the opportunity for a larger conversation, but we don’t want to treat it as a ‘bait and switch,’ where the patient thinks he’s getting treated for one thing and winds up with something entirely different.”

Next: Men's health: The rules of patient engagement

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