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Career and Education Overview: Sports Medicine – Physical Therapist

Majors Overview June 18, 2013

Physical therapy is a growing career that usually requires licensure and graduate study. Most universities offer physical therapy doctoral degree program that concentrates in the field of sports medicine. Sports physical therapists help athletes treat and prevent injuries along with enhancing performance.

Sports Medicine – Physical Therapist Educational Requirements

Physical therapists who want to work in sports medicine are required to obtain their degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Only the master degree programs are accredited, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS – www.bls.gov). In order to be considered for admission, applicants are required hold a bachelor’s degree.

Most programs in physical therapy result in doctorates. Students may complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy program that involves clinical experience, within three years. In most degree programs, during the first year, students are involved with experimental learning. Students are required to take courses, such as pharmacology, orthopedics, and anatomy. Students will also learn about treatments for various conditions, from muscular problems and sports injuries to cardiovascular. Depending on the program, some will require students to attend a minimum of one summer term.

Residency Programs

Physical therapists can acquire clinical experience and specialize in sports medicine in the field through a residency program in sports physical therapy. Residents are people who are practicing to become physical therapists and want to expand their knowledge in sports medicine. Typically, the program last approximately one year and teach students how to treat, assess, and prevent sports injuries. Most programs will have mentored clinical practices, and several will prepare physical therapists for sports-specialty examinations offered by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS – www.abpts.org).

Career Overview – Sports Medicine Physical Therapist

The services provided by a physical therapist are aimed at developing, restoring and maintaining functional ability and movement. Sports physical therapy involves rehabilitation, treatment, prevention, and evaluation. This specialization is also focused on performance improvement. Sports physical therapists will spend time teaching preventative techniques to other physical therapists, coaches, families, and athletes. Sports physical therapists work with doctors to create programs where they can help athletes recuperate from injuries and manage pain. They will also assess athletes on when they will be ready to return to physical activity.

Licensure and Professional Certification Information

Physical therapists are required to be licensed, and requirements will vary from state to state, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Typical requirements may include passing the National Physical Therapy Examination and completion of an accredited degree program. Specialized certification in sports physical therapy is offered by the American Physical Therapy Association. Applicants are required to demonstrate knowledge of current first responder protocols and Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) certification. Candidates must have experience in direct care and pass an exam in sports physical therapy.

Employment Outlook and Salary

In May 2010, a majority of physical therapists earned between $53,620 and $107,920 (source: BLS). The salary level will depend on the industry that employs physical therapists. For instance, in May 2010, home healthcare services paid physical therapists an average annual salary of $86,590; health practitioner’s offices paid an average annual salary of $76,860 to these professionals during the same period. Job growth of thirty percent has been projected for physical therapists during the period from 2008 to 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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