Sports Physical Therapist Career Guide

Overview

A sports physical therapist treats clients who have experienced sports-related injuries. Swimming, golfing, bowling and tennis are just some of the sports that can cause injuries that require a sports physical therapist. As a sports physical therapist, you will help athletes recover from their injuries. If you are interested in becoming a sports physical therapist, you will need to fulfill certain educational requirements. This article will teach you everything you need to know to enter the field of sports physical therapy.

Educational Requirements

If you are interested in becoming a sports physical therapist, you will need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine, physiology, chemistry, physical education, anatomy, biology or a related field. Once you have successfully completed an undergraduate program, you will need to obtain a graduate and/or post-graduate degree (Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) or Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)). You can expect to complete your master’s program in two to three years and you can expect to complete your doctoral program in three to four years, although it can take up to seven years to complete.

During your graduate and/or post-graduate programs, you will be required to take a variety of science-related courses such as: chemistry, biology, biomechanics, anatomy, neuroscience, physiology and pharmacology. You will also be required to complete a supervised clinical internship. In addition, you may be required to complete a physical therapy residency following graduation. This residency may take approximately one to three years to complete. During that time, you will receive clinical training and experience in your specialty.

Duties

As a sports physical therapist, you will concentrate on movement, recovery and flexibility. You will help your client heal from sports-related injuries (muscle strains and broken bones) that limit his/her mobility. You will also develop a rehabilitation treatment program for your client based on his/her physical condition (endurance, strength, range, motion, flexibility, posture, coordination, balance and mobility) and the type of injuries he/she has sustained. Moreover, you will accurately assess your client’s condition through variety of tests and physical examinations.

In addition, as a sports physical therapist, you will create stretches and exercises specifically tailored to your client’s injuries. The purpose of physical therapy is to restore your client’s mobility by improving his/her stamina, endurance, tolerance, muscle strength, coordination and balance. You may also utilize traction techniques, heat and water therapy approaches and massages to aid in the rehabilitation process.

It is important to note that in some cases your client’s injuries may be complex and/or serious, in which case , you will be responsible for accurately assessing your client’s condition and providing him/her with a treatment plan that fully covers his/her needs. Once a treatment plan has been developed, you and your client will meet once or twice a week to work on his/her injury. The length of therapy will depend on the severity of the injury, your client’s condition and how well he/she progresses during the therapy sessions.

Salary Prospects

As a sports physical therapist, you will more than likely work with a variety of school-related (elementary, middle school, high school and college) and professional sports teams. You may also work at hospitals, clinics or private practices.  You salary, as a sports physical therapist, will largely depend on your location, education, experience and employer. For instance, if you work for a professional sports team, you will make more annually then those who work in educational institutions.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (2013), you can expect to earn approximately $76,000 per year, as a sports physical therapist.  If you are in the lower 10%, you can expect to make approximately $53,000 per year, while if you are in the upper 10%, you can expect to make approximately $106,000 per year (bls.gov).

Career Outlook

The career outlook is good for physical therapists in all settings. The career outlook is especially good for physical therapists who work with professional sport teams and those who work at private practices, hospitals, clinics and skilled nursing facilities. In addition, employment opportunities are expected to rise in rural areas because many physical therapists work in urban and suburban areas.

In fact, physical therapy employment opportunities are expected to grow approximately 40% by 2020. This rise will stem from a continual interest in healthy living, which includes sports and exercise. Athletes and those with an active lifestyle will need physical therapy services to help them with mobility and flexibility issues and sports-related injuries. In addition, baby boomers will require rehabilitative physical therapy services as a result of an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, injuries and/or mobility-related disabilities.

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