Sports Therapy OR Physiotherapy

Very often I get asked:

What is the difference between yourself (Sports Therapist) and a Physiotherapist?’

Sports Therapy is a relatively new profession and so many members of the public are often unaware of who we are and what we do. Along with this Sports Therapy has many overlaps with other professionals such as Physiotherapists and Massage Therapists so it not surprising some confusion exists.

Sports Therapy is not a protected title in the UK unlike Physiotherapy and therefore anyone can call themselves a Sports Therapist. In order to guarantee a Sports Therapist is properly qualified and insured please ensure you use a therapist who is a member of the regulating professional body for Sports Therapist.

The two main regulating bodies are The Society of Sports Therapists (SST) and British Association of Sports Rehabilitators and Trainer’s (BASRAT).

The SST has described Sports Therapy as:

‘An aspect of healthcare that is specifically concerned with the prevention of injury and the rehabilitation of the patient back to optimum levels of functional, occupational and sports specific fitness, regardless of age and ability. It utilises the principles of sport and exercise sciences incorporating physiological and pathological processes to prepare the participant for training, competition and where applicable, work.’

The skills and knowledge Sports Therapists posses have been outlined again by the SST, they:

  • Have the knowledge and ability to provide first aid and attend to injuries in a recreational, training and competitive environment.
  • Have the knowledge and ability to assess and, where appropriate, refer on for specialist advice and intervention.
  • Have the knowledge and ability to provide sports massage pre and post activity.
  • Have the knowledge and ability to implement appropriate rehabilitation programmes.
  • Has the knowledge to utilise sports and exercise principles to optimise preparation and injury prevention programmes.

Sports Therapists work pitch side dealing with acute injuries and provide sports massage and taping from year 1 as an undergraduate at University, so by the time they have graduated they are experienced in these skills. Additionally, sports science forms an integral part of their study and background which forms an excellent basis to study the musculoskeletal system, its biomechanics and injuries. They are also normally participants in sports and therefore know what is it like to be injured and the demands placed upon athlete’s in order to compete.

On the other hand, Physiotherapist’s have a more general healthcare education dealing with neurology and respiratory systems and there diseases and injuries as well as the musculoskeletal system. They do not routinely have any placements within the sporting environment at undergraduate level but are required to undertake 1000 hours of placement time in Hospitals and within the community. Those that go on to work in Sport will have normally had post graduate training to further their skills and incorporate skills such as massage and taping that are needed in this unique environment.

Physiotherapist title is protected by legislation in the UK and they will be members of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (CSP) and on the Health Professions Council register (HPC). The CSP has described Physiotherapy

‘Physiotherapy helps restore movement and function to as near normal as possible when someone is affected by injury, illness or by developmental or other disability.’

Now you know the differences between Sports Therapist and Physiotherapists I imagine your next question would be who shall I see to treat my Sports / Musculoskeletal Injury? Well the answer is that it is entirely up to you.

There are some fantastic Sports Therapist’s and some fantastic Physiotherapist’s who are both more than capable of treating your injury, so look at recommendations and experience of each practitioner and make your decision based on the individual and not their title. Make sure they are members of the relevant professional bodies and have the appropriate insurance and you won’t go wrong. Both of these professions are also able to refer you on for further investigations or to a more appropriate professional such as an Orthopaedic Consultant or Podiatrist if necessary.

I hope you are now more aware of the differences between these two professions and able to make an informed decision about who you would like to see for your sports injury treatment and rehabilitation. Should you have any further questions on this or other relevant topics please contact me through my contact page.

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