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What Does A Sports Therapist Do?

Published: Friday 22nd May 2015

Sports therapist on a couch

What Is Sports Therapy?

Sports therapy is a part of the sports industry devoted to the care of an athlete’s physical health and performance. It combines aspects of sports science, exercise physiology and injury prevention. It is a specific area of healthcare focused on both the prevention of and rehabilitation from injuries sustained, either as a result of sport or to athletes in general.

The aim of a sports therapist is to maintain a person’s optimum sporting performance, or return them to it as quickly as possible. Sports therapy does this to either prepare a sports person for training or competition or to treat injuries.Within the UK, sports therapy is currently unregulated so there are relatively low barriers to becoming a sports therapist, though greater oversight, standards and regulations governing the field are gradually being brought in.

There are two professional sports therapist bodies in the UK, The Society of Sports Therapists and the Sports Therapy Organisation. Sports therapists can be a member of either or both. These organisations include public liability insurance for their member’s practices as well as requiring members to complete annual programs of continuous professional development (CPD). These programs usually involve attending professional courses and seminars as well as keeping up to date with advances in technique and research.

What Do Sports Therapy Jobs Include?

In essence a sports therapist is a healthcare professional who practices and dispenses sports therapy. They are often defined as having the knowledge, skills, experience and ability to do the following:

● Utilise sports and exercise principles to optimise athletic performance, preparation and develop injury prevention programs.

● Prepare athletes, both physically and mentally for competition.

● Provide first responder care and life support in training and competitive environments.

● Assess and treat injuries, assessing whether or not a competitor can continue safely during training or competition and referring clients for specialist care where appropriate.

● Give sports massage and administer sports tape/ strappings.

● Plan and execute a program of rehabilitation.

● Joint care, testing and maintenance.

● Advise sports people on diet and nutrition.

● Work as part of a sports team alongside coaches, trainers and fitness advisors to fully implement exercise, training, nutrition, conditioning and injury prevention programs.

Common techniques which are often used by sports therapists include: sports massage, taping/ strapping, stretching techniques, muscle strengthening, core stability training and proprioception training. When injuries are more severe and go beyond the remit of a sports therapist they will refer the athlete to a specialist medical professional.

Where Do Sports Therapists Work?

Many sports therapists are self -employed and work in a variety of settings. They can be found working in sports clubs at all levels from amateur through to the highest professional levels such as with Premier League football clubs or Olympic athletes.
A sports therapist may work with a sports club, team or even gym or they may work one-on-one with a single client at the higher end of the market. Sports therapists often combine this role with others, such as general coaching roles or other jobs in the sports industry.
A good way to break into a career in sports therapy is to network with sports clubs and athletes as well as other sports therapists. Try sending speculative applications to clubs and organisations as well as gyms you are interested in working with. Participating in sports and meeting other sports therapists is an essential way to meet people already in the field and finding out more about the day to day work of a therapist.

What Do They Earn?

Salaries for sports therapists depend on whether you are working for a club, athletic organisation or are self-employed. Typical starting salaries for a club or clinic-based sports therapist are around £17,000. This rises to around £28,000 with experience. Therapists who work either privately or with a professional team can earn in excess of £35,000 and charge around £45 per session. It is relatively common for sports therapists to work evenings and weekends with a work schedule which fits around client’s needs. Sports therapy is better suited to people who don’t want to have a 9-5 job.


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