A sports therapist is a special type of physical therapist who works specifically with athletes to help reduce pain and improve performance. A sports physical therapist is a recognized professional who promotes safe physical activity participation, offers sound advice, and adapts rehabilitation and training interventions to suit patient needs. The ultimate goal of a sports therapist is to preventing injury, restore optimal function, and contribute to the enhancement of sports performance in athletes of all ages and abilities. Like others in the medical field, sports therapists are held to a high standard of professional and ethical practice.
The type of job functions a sports therapist performs will depend on his or her work setting. Though sports therapists focus on athletes, this type of practitioner can work in a variety of settings, including:
No matter which setting a sports therapist works in, he or she focuses on helping athletes who have suffered sports-related injuries. By using their advanced knowledge and skills, sports therapists can help patients regain mobility, reduce pain, and increase their performance capabilities.
Sports physical therapists are often the first responder at training and competition sites. In many cases, sports therapists may be associated with a sport or athletics team, club, or association. However, sports therapists can also work in private and state-run hospitals or clinics, as well as recreational exercise and sports facilities.
If you want to become a sports therapist, you will follow a similar path as a traditional physical therapist. Most sports therapists earn an undergraduate degree in a related field, like biology or kinesiology. Undergrad classes to consider taking including:
After earning an undergraduate degree, you must earn a graduate degree. To become a sports therapist, you must have a graduate degree of some kind in physical therapy. Many students who want to become a sports therapist earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Master’s and doctoral degree programs are available, though the doctorate is the most common. While completing the doctoral degree program, which typically takes three to four years, students study the body’s musculoskeletal and neuromuscular systems. Students will also learn by doing, performing clinical and didactic work to learn how to properly diagnose and apply therapeutic procedures to patients. After earning a Doctor of Physical Therapy or Master of Physical Therapy degree, students must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination to become licensed. All states require physical therapists to be licensed.
As a type of physical therapist who work specifically with athletes, sports therapists often get lumped in with all physical therapists. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs in the physical therapy field are expected to grow around 36%, which is higher than the national average. In addition, physical therapists earned a median salary of $82,000 per year as of May 2014.