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Career Overview and Education for Sports Medicine Physical Therapist

Job Descriptions December 31, 2012

More students are choosing a fast-growing career field called physical therapy. To pursue this career field; students need to enroll into a graduate program followed by licensure. Doctoral degrees in physical therapy specializing in sports medicine are offered by different schools. Sports physical therapists work to help athletes in the prevention and treatment of injuries apart from improving their performance. In this article, we will look at the career path of a sports medicine physical therapist and discuss what an aspiring sports medicine physical therapist must do in order to pursue their career.

Education Prerequisites

To function as a physical therapist in sports medicine, a prospective candidate will need to complete a degree in physical therapy through an accredited program. Accreditation is only awarded in graduate programs (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) ( Admission prerequisites include the completion of a bachelor degree program. Most physical therapy programs culminate in Ph.D. degrees. A Doctor of Physical Therapy program can be completed by a student over a three-year period; coursework includes hands on experience in a clinical setting. Many programs begin clinical work during the first year, and the coursework covers topics such as pharmacology, orthopedics and anatomy, apart from treatment of various conditions such as muscular issues, sports injuries and cardiovascular problems. Various programs will require students to attend at least one summer session.

Residency Programs

Aspiring candidates can opt for specialization programs in sports medicine and gain hands on experience through clinical work done in residency programs in sports physical therapy. Residency programs are meant for practicing physical therapists in enhancing their understanding of sports medicine. The programs usually takes over one year to complete and provide students skills in preventing, assessing and treating injuries related to sports activities. Coursework includes supervised clinical experience, and participants can use the courses as preparation to take sports-specialty exams conducted by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS).

Overview of a Career in Sports Medicine Physical Therapy

The services provided by a physical therapist are aimed at assisting people in developing, restoring and maintaining functional ability and movement. Sports physical therapists work to evaluate, prevent, treat and rehabilitate athletes. They help athletes in enhancing performance. Coaches, athletes, families and even other physical therapists approach sports physical therapists to learn preventative techniques. Sports physical therapists and doctors collaborate in developing programs aimed at helping athletes in managing pain and recuperating from injuries. Sports physical therapists help assess whether athletes are ready to return to action from their injuries.

Certification and Licensure Norms

Physical therapists are required to meet licensure norms in order to practice their profession; each state has its own licensure norms. Usually, such norms require candidates to complete an accredited degree course and take the National Physical Therapy Exam. A specialized certification in sports physical therapy is offered by the American Physical Therapy Association’s ABPTS. Admission is given to applicants who have CPR certification and knowledge of first responder protocols that are currently applicable. They need to take an exam in sports physical therapy and must have some prior experience in personal care (

Wage and Employment Potential

In May 2010, the majority of physical therapists earned an average annual salary ranging between $53,620 and $107,920 (source: BLS). Physical therapist earnings can vary depending on the industry in which they are employed. For instance, in May 2010, physical therapists employed in home healthcare services took home an average annual salary package of $86,590; during the same period, the median income for therapists working in health practitioner’s offices was $76,860. An optimistic job growth of thirty percent has been projected for physical therapists during the decade from 2008 to 2018 by the BLS.

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