A sports therapist works with athletes to treat and prevent injuries, and you can become a sports therapist by training in physical therapy at a community college or university and earning a physical therapist’s license. A certification in sports therapy from a professional sports medicine organization may also be required. Many sports therapists work for professional sports teams, sports centers, gyms, or in private practice. Career advancement for sports therapists includes continuing education in physical therapy methods and current trends in sports medicine, as well as certifications with state and national boards of physical therapy.
Sports therapist education includes an undergraduate or associate’s degree in physical therapy or sports therapy from an accredited university or community or vocational college. Many medical professionals who go into physical or sports therapy first get a bachelor’s degree in sports medicine, kinesiology, or physical therapy. Some colleges also offer associate’s degrees in sports medicine that prepare students for a licensing exam and offer hands-on training in physical therapy. Classes that contribute to sports medicine degrees include those that focus on kinesiology, anatomy, musculoskeletal disorders, and sports psychology.
In many places, an advanced degree is an important part of becoming a sports therapist. A master’s degree in sports medicine or physical therapy can help an individual become a sports therapist by providing more in-depth medical knowledge and practice methods than an undergraduate degree. Advanced degree programs in sports therapy generally take anywhere from six to nine semesters to complete, depending on the program.
Most states also require sports therapists to be licensed to practice physical therapy. Obtaining a license generally requires completing a licensing exam and gaining job experience. Another important step to become a sports therapist is earning a certification from a professional organization; for example, the American Physical Therapy Association and the Society of Sports Therapists are the primary organization in the United States. Certifications in sports therapy require a certain number hours of clinical practice as well as a passing score on an examination.
It can be helpful for someone who wants to become a sports therapist to play some sort of sports during their high school or college career. To effectively work with athletes and treat sports-related injuries, a physical therapist needs to understand how these injuries happen, which injuries are most common, and how injuries can affect an athletic career. Having first-hand knowledge of sports will also allow a sports therapist to better talk with clients and create a rapport.