A sports therapist is a type of physical therapist who works specifically with athletes and sports-related injuries. This is a growing field that not only offers good employment options, but also a high median salary.
To become a sports therapist, you will follow a similar path as a normal physical therapist. Like a physical therapist, sports therapists must earn a graduate degree and take a test to become licensed. Many schools across the country offer doctoral degrees in physical therapy with a focus in the field of sports medicine. Because sports therapists specifically help athletes prevent and treat injuries and improve performance, you must go beyond a typical physical therapy degree and gain additional certification.
To begin, you must earn an undergraduate degree. Most sports therapists earn a degree in biology or kinesiology. After the undergraduate degree is completed, students must earn a graduate degree from an accredited physical therapy program. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that only graduate programs are accredited, and applicants must earn a bachelor’s degree before being admitted.
The majority of sports therapists earn a doctoral degree, such as a Doctor of Physical Therapy. While studying in a graduate program, students will take courses in anatomy, orthopedics and pharmacology. Students will also learn about treatments for a variety of conditions, from cardiovascular issues to common sports injuries
This path of study will offer students clinical experience. In many programs, experiential learning begins in the first year. Many physical therapists who chose to specialize in sports medicine acquire clinical experience in the field through a residency program in sports physical therapy. This type of program typically lasts about a year. During the program, the student will gain hands-on experience preventing, assessing, and treating sports injuries through mentored clinical practices. In addition, these programs can prepare students for sports-specialty exams administered by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS).
The BLS also notes that physical therapists must be licensed to legally perform their jobs. The requirements for licensing can vary from state to state. Typically, the requirements include completing an accredited degree program and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam.
In addition, the American Physical Therapy Association’s ABPTS offers a specialized certification in sports physical therapy. To earn this certificate, applicants must demonstrate that they have earned CPR certification and know current first responder protocols. In addition, candidates must also pass an examination in sports physical therapy and have actual experience in direct care.
Physical therapy, including sports therapy, is a rapidly growing field. To become a sports therapist, you must complete an accredited physical therapy program and earn state licensing. It is also highly recommended that you complete a residency program in sports medicine.