Sports medicine? - Who goes there?

There are over 400,000 doctors practising in Germany. There are dozens of different specialties. One of them is the specialist in sports medicine. We asked: Who actually goes to a sports medicine specialist and when exactly?

Prof. Dr. Bernd Wolfarth and Dr. Thouet from the Institute for Sports Science and Sports Medicine at the Charité in Berlin provide clarification:

Who usually comes to see you at the Institute? Who are your patients?

Prof. Dr Bernd Wolfarth: We are now one of the largest sports medicine facilities in Germany, we simply have a high number of patient contacts per year and this also results in a very wide range of different patients. It really does range from young competitive athletes to professional athletes to Olympic champions. But we also see 40- to 60-year-old check-up patients and patients who are seriously ill and have been recommended sport as a therapy.

Dr Thomas Thouet: Of course, we also have a very large proportion of healthy, ambitious sports people who would otherwise not even think of going to the doctor for advice. It has to be said that the offer of health insurance companies for sports medical examinations has become much better, i.e. the costs have been clarified, and that brings a relatively large number of ambitious recreational athletes to us who simply want to get better advice about their sports activities.

With what concerns or complaints do I go to sports medicine? When does a sports medicine examination make sense?

Prof. Dr Bernd Wolfarth: It always depends on what you are looking for. In the area of sport/competitive sport, it's mostly about treating illnesses caused by sport or illnesses or injuries that have occurred in connection with sport. Or it's about carrying out such preventive examinations, for example, and the prevention of sudden cardiac death plays a role here. But it's also about ruling out other problems related to the practice of competitive sport.

Dr Thomas Thouet: Of course, there is also a certain focus on performance diagnostics. In other words, training counselling. Also in the field of competitive sports, but also in ambitious recreational sports. In other words: healthy runners, predominantly runners, triathletes, cyclists who want to have their lactate thresholds determined, for example, in order to optimally adjust their training to them. And possibly to add a bit more to it, perhaps to achieve a personal marathon target time. Something like that.

How do you deal with the different patient groups?

Prof. Dr Bernd Wolfarth: When we get cancer patients, cardiological patients, type 2 diabetics or obese patients, for example, who are supposed to take up sport. There, too, it's about examining the resilience. Here, too, the aim is to rule out any contraindications or problems due to the underlying disease that could be worsened by exercise. In part, it is also about optimising the therapy again and then enabling really safe exercise, which then has a positive secondary influence on the disease. Especially in the 40 to 60 age group, it is often the case that people come to sport either as newcomers or as people returning to sport. Then, on the one hand, we have to clarify the health situation, i.e. say whether it is safe to do sport. On the other hand, we can of course also give advice on how to get into sport in a sensible way. This means that we can objectify the performance, can of course derive training advice from the examinations that we carry out and can thus give people advice on how they can practise sport safely on the one hand and successfully and in a goal-oriented manner on the other.

Sports medical examinations are a health insurance benefit!

Obesity and lack of exercise have increased significantly since 2020. It is advisable to have your exercise capacity checked before (re)starting sport.

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