In Summary - Sports Therapist
The Work - Sports Therapist
Sports therapists give advice on preventing injury. They also examine and treat injuries and rehabilitate people back to fitness both for sport and everyday life, including work.
Sports therapists are specialists in the musculoskeletal system, being able to diagnose and treat a range of conditions, including strains, sprains, tennis elbow and frozen shoulder.
Sports therapy isn't just about working with injured sports professionals. Therapists can help people of any age or ability. Patients might not be involved in sport - the therapy can help anyone who's involved in physical activity. For example, non-sports people might see a sports therapist for relief from muscular pain caused by injury, poor posture or repetitive strain.
When they first meet a patient, therapists examine and observe them to assess the problem. This could involve watching how the patient walks (their gait), testing joints for range of movement, and feeling for tightness in muscle fibres. Therapists use their knowledge of sports and exercise science, including biomechanics, physiology and pathology. Having observed the patient, they put together a programme to treat their specific problem, taking into account which sport the person is involved in. This could involve training them in exercises to increase strength, flexibility or stamina, or teaching ways to reduce the risk of injury. In some cases, they will refer the patient to a medical specialist.
Rehabilitation could involve:
- using massage to correct muscular imbalance
- exercises to strengthen muscles and joints
- helping the patient to stretch
- manual therapy
- therapeutic ultrasound.
Therapists don't just deal with physical things to do with the body; they also help people deal with the emotional effects of sports injuries. Therapists help people to prepare for sports training and competition. They give advice on how to train to improve performance and avoid injury.
For example, massage before events helps to avoid tight muscles and hamstrings. In running, tight hamstrings reduce stride length, meaning that the runner has to put in more effort. In swimming, tight muscles restrict flexibility and lead to less efficient strokes.
Before a sports event, this can involve giving advice on things like:
- mental preparation
- strapping and taping to prevent injury and provide support
- stretching, warming up and cooling down.
Sports therapists are trained to give first aid during events. They examine injuries and give their opinion on whether the sportsperson can continue. Afterwards, they examine injuries and deal with problems such as cuts, bruises and blisters.
For more serious injuries, they decide whether to refer the sportsperson for emergency treatment or to a healthcare specialist at a later date. Sports therapists might combine therapy with other sports-related work, for example, as a personal trainer or fitness instructor. Some therapists are qualified to give advice on diet and nutrition for sport.
Interests - Sports Therapist
This occupation is typically suited for people with the following Career Interests:
The Social person's interests focus on interacting with the people in their environment. In all cases, the Social person enjoys the personal contact with other people in preference to the impersonal dealings with things, data and ideas found in other groups.
Many will seek out positions where there is direct contact with the public in some advisory role, whether a receptionist or a counsellor. Social people are motivated by an interest in different types of people and like diversity in their work environments. Many are drawn towards careers in the caring professions and social welfare area, whilst others prefer teaching and other 'informing' roles.
The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with sophiscticated technology. These types prefer mentally stimulating environments and often pay close attention to developments in their chosen field.
Creative people are drawn to careers and activities that enable them to take responsibility for the design, layout or sensory impact of something (visual, auditory etc). They may be atrracted to the traditional artistic pursuits such as painting, sculpture, singing, or music. Or they may show more interest in design activities, such as architecture, animation, or craft areas, such as pottery and ceramics.
Creative people use their personal understanding of people and the world they live in to guide their work. Creative people like to work in unstructured workplaces, enjoy taking risks and prefer a minimum of routine.
To be a sports therapist, you'll need:
- good communication skills, including the ability to listen
- hand skills for giving massage and using equipment such as therapeutic ultrasound
- empathy and the ability to help people deal with the emotional effects of injury
- the ability to keep accurate records
- problem-solving skills
- good judgement, to decide when to refer a patient to a medical specialist.
Many sports therapists are self-employed and so need the skills to run their own business.
Entry Requirements - Sports Therapist
Pay & Salary - Sports Therapist
Salary Range (thousands per year)* 18k - 60k
Last Updated: March, 2017
* The lower figures typically reflect starting salaries. Higher salaries are awarded to those with greater experience and responsibility. Positions in Dublin sometimes command higher salaries.