Firstly, I must clarify that I am a Graduate Sports Therapist with multiple years of experience, having worked with a variety of athletes across numerous sports. My information draws upon that is publicly available and that which I have experienced in my career, particularly when working within multidisciplinary teams.
So, firstly what is a Sports Therapist?
If asked... I personally would define myself as someone who is involved with the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of sports-related injuries to return the patient to full functional fitness in the shortest but safest possible time.
The Society of Sports Therapists adds...
‘[Sports Therapy] utilises the principles of sport and exercise science incorporating physiological and pathological processes to prepare the participant for training, competition and where applicable, work.’
Available from: https://society-of-sports-therapists.org/public-information/what-is-sports-therapy/ [Accessed 18/01/20]
Essentially Graduate Sports Therapists, who are Members of the Society, have skills which are based around the five competencies:
2. Recognition and evaluation
3. Management, treatment and referral
5. Education and professional practice issues.
It then comes to the question that I get asked most often when people are deciding what course to do next...
What is the difference between Sports Therapy and Physiotherapy?
Given the definition above, it is relevant to share the definition of a Physiotherapist as per the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists...
‘Physiotherapy helps restore movement and function when someone is affected by injury, illness or disability.’
’At the core is the patient’s involvement in their own care, through education, awareness, empowerment and participation in their treatment.’
Available from: https://www.csp.org.uk/careers-jobs/what-physiotherapy [Accessed 18/01/20]
In my opinion, although the two professions have very similar musculoskeletal skill sets, Physiotherapists are required to have broader knowledge of pathology in the neurological, respiratory and post-surgical interventions for the general population. That includes further knowledge of co-morbidities and medications.
"The two professionals have very similar musculoskeletal skill sets"
Having said that, I believe that Sports Therapists expertise lies in musculoskeletal sports injury assessment. Furthermore, the underlying knowledge of sports science principles and exercise rehabilitation place them in an ideal position to work within sports injury clinics and sports clubs.
How do Sports Therapy jobs differ to Physiotherapy jobs?
It is important to be aware that the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy has been established longer than The Society of Sports Therapists, with Physiotherapists being fully established within our National Health Service.
There are different pathways for Sports Therapists and Physiotherapists. Sports Therapists are prepared to go into sports injury clinics, sports clubs and become self-employed practitioners; whereas, Physiotherapists generally go into working with the public within the NHS specialising in a variety of fields, or alternatively enter private practice and may also work within a sports club.
The cross over is unsurprising given the similarity in musculoskeletal skill sets as described earlier... so it really is dependent upon the individuals preferences for study and later employment.
In private sports injury clinics, both Sports Therapists and Physiotherapists should be aware of whether they can access patients with medical insurance. Generally speaking, insurance companies utilise Chartered Physiotherapists for insurance based claims, potentially giving them access to a wider private client base; however, the majority are general population patients.
Having worked closely with Practitioners from both professions at the highest level, I believe that those who are conscientious, hard-working and abide by their respective organisations roles and responsibilities have the potential to exceed in their respected fields.
The strength of a multidisciplinary team can never be underestimated.