What does a Sports Physiotherapist do?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2019
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A sports physiotherapist, also sometimes known as a sports physical therapist or an athletic trainer, works with athletes, individually or in teams, to minimize and treat sports-related injuries. His job usually involves educating athletes to prevent injuries, assessing and treating injuries during training sessions and competitions, and meeting with coaches and physicians to discuss athletes’ training progress and physical fitness. A sports physiotherapist may be employed by a gym, high school, university, or professional sports organization. He must normally hold a minimum of an undergraduate degree in a relevant area.

One of the most important parts of the sports physiotherapist’s job is preventing injury among his clients, who are usually part of a sports team. To minimize injuries, the sports physiotherapist typically spends a significant amount of time educating his clients about how to use training machines safely, how to stretch the muscles following workouts, and so forth. Following competitive events and training sessions, the physiotherapist may also perform therapeutic treatments, such as administering massages or ice baths, to encourage proper recovery of the muscles and bones prior to the next competition or practice session.


Even when preventive measures are taken, injuries sometimes occur during athletic events. Therefore, another important part of a sports physiotherapist’s job is waiting on the sidelines during games and practices in case an athlete becomes injured. Should injury occur, the sports physiotherapist must immediately assess the athlete’s condition and quickly decide on the appropriate treatment. He may apply tape or splints, or in the case of moderate to severe injury, may refer the athlete to the team physician or a medical facility.

In many cases, a sports physiotherapist is required to coordinate with other members of a team’s training and medical staff. He may meet regularly with coaches and team doctors to formulate training plans. As an injured athlete recovers, the sports physiotherapist may consult with the team doctor to decide which exercises and therapeutic treatments will best prepare that athlete to return to competition.

The most common employers of sports physiotherapists are gyms, high schools, universities, and professional sports organizations. Sometimes, physiotherapists who work with high school teams are also employed as teachers at that high school. Conversely, sports physiotherapists who are employed by universities or professional athletic organizations usually work with a team full time and may even be required to travel with that team.

Most employers require sports physiotherapists to hold a minimum of an undergraduate degree in a relevant area, such as physical therapy or sports medicine. Some employers require a master’s degree. Further, in many countries, sports physiotherapists must acquire a license by successfully completing a certification exam.


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