Understanding an Orthopedic Doctor – Different Subcategories in the Field

If you are interested in the field of orthopedics, then understanding the various specialties you can focus on will play a big part in your schooling as you near the end of your degree and enter into your residency. While orthopedic doctors use a variety of both surgical and non-surgical treatment methods, their broad area of focus will be to treat various musculoskeletal injuries, degenerative diseases, sports injuries, and even infections and tumors related to the musculoskeletal system.

Due to the vastness and complexity of the musculoskeletal system, many orthopedic doctors will specialize in a sub category of orthopedics. There are a number of various categories, however a few are described below.


Orthopedic doctors who specialize in sports medicine are in high demand and are needed for even the most world renown sports teams. These doctors will ensure that the players are successfully treated for the various sports injuries that they sustain – whether those be bone breaks, sprains, muscle tears, or even emergencies such as a broken neck.


Orthopedic surgeons have a broad and extensive knowledge of the entire musculoskeletal system and are able to operate on it from head to toe. Often orthopedic surgeons will split into additional subcategories, ensuring that the patients they treat are getting expert care for their specific injury or ailment. Some category examples for orthopedic surgeons include hands, spine, foot and ankle, arthroplasty, and shoulder and elbow.


Oncology is the study and the subsequent treatment of tumors, both benign and malignant, which means that an orthopedic physician who specializes in oncology will work with various cancers related to the musculoskeletal system. These can include osteosarcoma, which is the most common type of bone cancer, or even soft tissue sarcoma, which is various cancers that affect the muscles and surrounding tissues.


Trauma doctors are often either working in an emergency room, or on call in an emergency room. If an orthopedic doctor specializes in trauma, he will often be called in for a variety of emergency musculoskeletal injuries. These may include severe bone breaks that require surgery, spine or neck trauma, or even infections in the musculoskeletal system.


Children and infants require a special type of care and treatment that will often differ from adults due to their age, and the fact that their body is still growing. Orthopedic doctors who specialize in pediatrics will often work in larger hospitals or at an orthopedic center on hospital grounds. Pediatric patients are generally under the age of eighteen, with patients between eighteen and older being referred to a regular orthopedic physician.

Orthopedic physicians and surgeons specialize in a variety of areas to provide the best possible care for their patients due to the vastness of the musculoskeletal system. Whether they are working with infants and children, or simply helping to treat a football player sprained ankle, orthopedic physicians are playing a massive role in people’s lives, changing them for the better and doing everything they can to ensure they get back to good health.