Please join us in a congratulatory round of applause for our own, Dr. Backer, who recently became a board-certified sports medicine physician—a distinction she’s been working on for the last four years.

The benefit of having a board-certified sports medicine physician on your team is that they are specially trained to get you back in the game sooner. With their focus on non-surgical orthopaedic methodologies, they work with patients to ensure that their injury doesn’t lead to further setbacks, and they help you to understand proper preventative measures to keep you in the game, which (as we all know) is exactly where an athlete wants to be!

Board-certified sports medicine doctors can advise athletes with things like:

  • Safe strength training and conditioning exercises to maintain peak physical form
  • Head injury testing and protocols (such as concussion treatment)
  • Chronic and acute illness management (such as asthma, diabetes, or mono)
  • Exercise prescription for tactics to ease into fitness regimens
  • Injury prevention (as mentioned above) and healthy lifestyle choices
    And much more!

Dr. Backer can assess the best mode for working your way back from an injury, and, of course, helping you to avoid further and future setbacks. Being a board-certified physician takes great care and determination, and is a recognition we are proud to celebrate.

We sat down with Dr. Backer to learn more about her journey to becoming a board-certified physician, what got her interested in the study of Sports Medicine, and the role she hopes to play in young athletes’ lives.

How does one become a board-certified sports medicine physician? How long did it take to earn this particular certification?

Board certification means that I have demonstrated mastery of the field of Sports Medicine. Sports Medicine is a specific focus in non-operative musculoskeletal medicine. You can complete a Fellowship in Sports Medicine from many different specialties; I came from Family Medicine. In this field, I can take care of a variety of issues ranging from joint/muscle pain to concussions, to scuba diving health, to just generally helping people start becoming active. I can also manage many sideline injuries that occur during sporting events.

To get here, I completed four years of medical school, three years of training in Family Medicine, and an additional Fellowship year in Sports Medicine. I’m actually double board-certified in both Family Medicine and Sports Medicine!

During my fellowship year in Sports Medicine, I worked with patients of all ages and in all stages of exercise. I took care of elite athletes, Division I college athletes, weekend warriors, and those just starting their exercise journey.

What does it mean for you and your patients now that you’ve earned that distinction? What excites you about it?

For me, the board certification is the icing on the cake at the end of my training. I’ve spent the last four years learning from patients everything I can about their ailments and diagnoses (though I really doubled down on this over the last year). There are nuances of treatment that you learn from the person in front of you that you can’t learn from a book or be tested on during an exam. Everyone is different and everyone comes from a different place.

What I’ve really learned over the last four years is how to meet people where they are. Board certification gives me the ability to continue to practice medicine and should give my patients confidence that I’ve earned a distinction that is recognized by my colleagues in the field.

Also, coming from Family Medicine, I take a “whole person” approach to diagnosis and treatment. We are more than our muscles and joints, and sometimes outside factors like work, life, stress, and family can play significant roles in how we’re feeling and deal with injury (or get in the way of healthy eating and exercise habits).

I’m excited to continue to grow and learn, and to help people get healthy and active.

What got you into sports medicine to begin with? Why did you choose it as your life’s mission? What do you appreciate about this work? 

Sports Medicine is the best medicine! I was drawn to sports medicine because I was an injured athlete myself. I started swimming competitively at a young age, and by the time I reached high school, I had daily pain. I swam the mile—which is the longest race and usually when everyone else took their lunch break during swim meets. When I went to college, it was beginning to affect my life outside of swimming. I started using only one arm mid-race because the pain was so bad, and the athletic trainers at my college convinced me to see a physician. I saw a non-sports doctor that recommended I stop swimming.

As you can imagine, that didn’t really feel like an option at the time. I did somehow find my way to physical therapy—and that really helped. I eventually stopped swimming, and I struggled to find my new identity as a ‘non-swimmer.’ I had amazing coaches and teammates along the way, but I always wished I had more guidance/conversations with a physician about my medical options.

Fast forward to a few years ago, and I found myself doing a Family Medicine residency in Baltimore. I thank my lucky stars for this because I was connected with an amazing mentor who was a Sports Medicine physician. She brought me along to every game she covered and her college training room. I realized then that I could become the physician that I wished I had when I was younger. Now that I’m on this end, I understand just how many options I can offer an athlete, and if the decision to end sport comes, I can help with the transition.

That’s a long-winded story about how I got here, but I want to be the physician that can help a young athlete (or any athlete through an injury). I understand the conversations about pain control, options, and taking a step back from the sport because I’ve been there myself. I always want to be an advocate for young athletes and to help prevent overuse injuries.

One of the aspects I appreciate most about being a Sports Medicine physician is that I have a role in so many places. I can help diagnose and treat injuries, provide education on injury prevention, and help people start exercising safely with exercise programs. It’s a really cool niche to have.

I know it’s still relatively fresh, but what do you appreciate about working at Access Sports Medicine? How’s the experience been thus far? 

It’s been great! It’s quite strange to make the jump from training to attending, and this transition has been easy at Access. Everyone has been so patient, approachable, kind, and helpful. The staff has been so welcoming and answer all my silly questions. In addition to my clinical practice, I’ll serve as Team Physician for two local high schools, and the trainers and schools have been so wonderful and welcoming. I find that the joy in the day-to-day aspects of a job are so much about the people you work with, and I’ve found those people at Access.