A sports therapist is a person who does physical therapy work for sports teams or individuals who engage in sporting activities. People in this role might have jobs directly tied to a particular team, or they might have numerous clients, or both. Their jobs are usually related to both prevention of injury, and therapy after an injury. They also usually have the task of determining when athletes are ready to return to competition during the recovery process and helping those athletes return without re-aggravating any injuries.
To help athletes avoid injury, a sports therapist may watch for problems in physical mechanics. Athletes often push their bodies to extremes, and over time, this can have major consequences. Watching mechanics can be very important in some sports, like pitching in baseball, for example, because there is a great risk of repetitive stress injury. A sports therapist may also recommend the use of certain braces to protect muscle groups.
When athletes do suffer an injury, a sports therapist generally helps get them on the road to a decent recovery. This might involve recommending rest time and coordinating with physicians to determine the best treatment plans. It also often falls to the sports therapist to put the athlete through a physical rehab program, which may include specific exercises to strengthen damaged muscles or tendons and encourage healing.
Sometimes athletes are forced to play with a lot of pain. They may have injuries that are slow to heal fully but not serious enough to require rest. In some sports, especially those with a lot of physical contact, there is a culture of respect that revolves around playing through injuries. A sports therapist may be called on to help these athletes deal with their daily aches and pains by providing massage therapy and using other techniques to soothe sore muscles.
It’s often important for a sports therapist to have a certain amount of talent in dealing with people. For one thing, he has to deal on a personal level with injured athletes on a regular basis, and he may also have to deal with their coaches. All these people may have different motives besides just facilitating recovery from an injury. Some sports coaches may even expect sports therapists to help athletes get their confidence back after suffering an injury. This isn’t necessarily something the therapists are always trained for, but if they don’t have these skills to some extent, it could potentially be detrimental to their careers.