Physical Therapy in Sport

Sports Physical Therapy

What is Sports Physical Therapy?

For many people, their first introduction to physical therapy is through their own sport-related injury, or through observation of others receiving care from a sports physical therapist at a sporting event. While a sports physical therapist is often involved in on-field injury assessment, the scope of their expertise goes well beyond that.

Sports physical therapists have a strong background in orthopedics. In North America and many other parts of the world, specialized certification is required to be a sports physical therapist. In the United States, you must apply and qualify for the Sports Specialization Certification Exam. In Canada, both written and practical examinations, overseen by Sport Physiotherapy Canada, must be passed to qualify for certification.

Training for sports physical therapy certification can begin during the physical therapy degree program itself. However, it is usually based on additional training that is started and completed post-degree.

Training generally includes:

  • CPR and emergency on-field care
  • taping
  • bracing
  • wrapping
  • acute injury care
  • injury prevention
  • exercise prescription and progression
  • functional return to sport

Recently there has been an increased focus on concussion assessment and management due to the many studies that show how catastrophic the effects of repeated head trauma can be. As a result, there is a great deal of continuing education opportunities around this topic.

A sports physical therapist often works directly with sports teams. They work with people of all levels of activity from professional athletes to amateur athletes, including anyone who participates in sporting and exercise activities. A physical therapist who specializes in sports will also network with other health care professionals in various disciplines to allow proper all-around care for athletes.

A career as a physical therapist/physiotherapist who specializes in training and treating athletes can be very rewarding. You are generally working with people who are motivated to get better. Often, one of the challenges is preventing athletes form returning to their sport too quickly. Athletes are generally very eager to get back to training and competition.

Sports Physical Therapy Resources