How Sports Physical Therapists Work with Athletes

how sports physical therapists work with athletes

If you aspire to be a physical therapist, your degree can open up multiple career options. One option is to work in sports medicine with athletes to help keep them at the top of their game. These can include professional athletes as well as college or youth athletes, across all sports.

In a sports team or athletic program, physical therapists work as part of the training team, which is led by the head athletic trainer. While the training staff will be on-site for games, treating athletes, a physical therapist will be behind the scenes, away from the arena or field of play, working with athletes—evaluating the severity of injuries, establishing treatment plans, leading athletes through exercises that improve athletic performance—to help them get back in action after injuries or surgery.

Of course, sports physical therapists aren’t limited to working with competitive athletes or sports teams. They also can work with “weekend warriors” or pretty much anyone who experiences a sports-related injury. Physical therapy also represents a valuable way for young athletes to learn proper form and become educated about how to prevent or avoid future injuries.  

How Athletes Benefit from Physical Therapy

There are multiple ways athletes benefit from physical therapy, including:

  • Rehabilitating from injury or surgery.
  • Increasing strength.
  • Eliminating pain.
  • Increasing mobility.
  • Preventing future injuries through a combination of treatment and education. 

Working as a sports physical therapist does entail some special requirements. In addition to earning a graduate degree in physical therapy, it’s necessary to either complete a residency or total at least 2,000 hours of work experience caring for patients in a sports medicine setting, become certified in emergency medical care and CPR, and pass the certification exam for sports physical therapy offered by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties.

But if you have a passion for sports, going the extra mile to become a sports physical therapist can be an especially appealing career choice.

Get a doctor of physical therapy degree and pass your state licensure exams to start your journey to becoming a fully practicing sports physical therapist.