CPD

Is Sports Therapy the Same as Physical Therapy?

Dr. Carl Clarkson
Dr. Carl Clarkson August 23, 2022
Physiotherapist Assisting Client

If you’re new to the healthcare industry, or are looking to enter the industry, it can be confusing as an outsider to know the ins and outs of each profession, but in this article, we take you through how Sports Therapy and Physical Therapy differs, so that you make the right choices for your future career or current clients.

So, is Sports Therapy the same as Physical Therapy? Sports Therapy is not the same as Physical Therapy, but is a branch of Physical Therapy specifically focused on sports related musculoskeletal issues. Physical Therapists treat the whole body, including Neurological, Cardiovascular, and Respiratory conditions. 

Read on to learn more about how Sports Therapy and Physical Therapy differs.

What is Sports Therapy?

Sports Therapy is a branch of healthcare, similar to Physiotherapy and Physical Therapy, but primarily concerned with the prevention and rehabilitation of sport-related injuries. The therapy utilises the principles of sport and exercise science to prepare clients for training and competition, and helps them to recover from such events. 

This intervention, classed under Physiotherapy, is recognised as an Allied Health Profession in the UK (a group of 14 alternative therapies, distinct from key healthcare services such as medicine, dentistry, and psychology), with the NHS recognising the therapy for it’s provision of specialist diagnostic, technical, therapeutic, and support services.

What Can a Sports Therapist Do?

Sports Therapy is built upon 5 key areas that a Sports Therapist must be competent in, all relating to illness and injury in a sporting environment:

  • Prevention
  • Recognition and Evaluation
  • Management, Treatment and Referral
  • Rehabilitation
  • Education and Professional Practice Issues

In practise, this may include activities such as:

  • Advising on stretches and warm up exercises
  • Sports massage
  • Strapping and taping techniques
  • Examining and assessing injuries
  • Determining and administering suitable treatments
  • Designing and implementing programmes
  • Advising on diet, nutrition and lifestyle
  • Collaborating with trainers and coaches

What is Physical Therapy?

Physical Therapy is the same as Physiotherapy; different parts of the world refer to such therapists differently, although they are generally the same practice, utilising various treatments, manipulations, and exercises to help clients regain range of motion, strength, and mobility.

As previously mentioned, Physiotherapy is considered to be an Allied Health Profession in the UK, meaning that the NHS recognises the intervention for its effectiveness in treating motion, strength and mobility issues, or in recovery and rehabilitation. 

Physical Therapy can be broken down into specialisms including:

  • Neurological - e.g. stroke, MS, Parkinsons
  • Neuromuscular - e.g. back pain, arthritis, whiplash
  • Cardiovascular - e.g. chronic heart disease, rehabilitation from heart attack
  • Respiratory - e.g. asthma, Cystic Fibrosis

What Can a Physical Therapist Do?

Physiotherapy or Physical Therapy can involve a wide range of treatments, from standard Physiotherapy treatments to advanced options via additional training. 

Treatments may include (but are not limited to):

  • Education and advice - general advice on how to improve health and wellbeing at home and between sessions, as well as ways to reduce the risk of injuries or pain recurring
  • Balance exercises
  • Core stability exercises
  • Taping
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Stretching
  • Pilates
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga
  • Manipulation/mobilisation

How Do They Differ?

Sports Therapy is a branch of Physical Therapy meaning that they are very similar in practice. However, Sports Therapy is limited to musculoskeletal conditions, whereas Physical Therapy considers the body as a whole and Physical Therapists are trained to treat conditions relating to other bodily systems. 

As the name implies, Sports Therapy is ideal for less complex musculoskeletal issues, such as minor injuries like sprains and strains, breaks, fractures, aches and pains, surgery rehabilitation, and sports specific injuries like tennis elbow. Meanwhile, Physical Therapy is more suited for issues that are more complex, involve other body systems, or for clients that may have other impacting health conditions.

Is Sports Physical Therapy a Thing?

Sports Physical Therapy is a recognised profession, governed by the CSP and HCPC in the UK, and the IFSPT in other countries. However, in the UK, it would likely be referred to as Sports Physiotherapy. That being said, whilst the name implies that the intervention is different from the Sports Therapy outlined in this article, it is actually just another term for Sports Therapy - Sports Physical Therapists don’t have any additional qualification, training, or allowances to Sports Therapists.

If you’re considering entering the industry, it’s important to consider what you actually want to do. If you’re content sticking to sports-related musculoskeletal issues, injuries, and rehabilitation, Sports Therapy is a good choice. But, if you want to treat a wider range of conditions Physiotherapy is more suitable. Similarly if you’re already a healthcare provider needing to make a suitable referral, consider the above to ensure a good fit.  

How to Become a Sports Therapist or a Physiotherapist in the UK

Sports Therapists don’t necessarily need a degree to practise in the UK, however many employers will ask for a relevant degree-level qualification, as well as membership to the The Society of Sports Therapists (to which individuals need a relevant degree to register). 

Physiotherapists, on the other hand, do need to hold, at a minimum, a BSc in Physiotherapy, or study a MSc in Physiotherapy following an alternative, relevant undergraduate degree. Upon completion of study, they would also need to join the HCPC and/or the CSP

Learn more about how to become a Physiotherapist in the UK in our recent blog. We take you through the necessary qualifications and different routes that can be taken, the skills that Physiotherapists need, as well as salary and progression opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Sports Therapy is not the same as Physical Therapy, but is a branch of Physical Therapy specifically focused on sports-related musculoskeletal issues, injuries and rehabilitation. Physical Therapy focuses on the body as a whole and offers treatments for other bodily systems such as Neurological, Cardiovascular, and Respiratory.

Whilst Sports Therapy may be more limited than Physical Therapy, there’s nothing stopping therapists from improving their skills and offering advanced treatments such as Acupuncture and Dry Needling, Sports Massage, and even Clinical Yoga to provide clients with more options and more rounded treatments overall. 

Breeze Academy offers CPD courses in Acupuncture and Dry Needling, Sports Massage, and Clinical Yoga Teacher Training to help healthcare professionals advance their skills and knowledge, and provide additional offerings in their practice. Take a look at our courses online today, or get in touch for more information.

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