Sports Therapist

The Job and What's Involved

Sports therapists work with a wide range of people, from those who train recreationally through to those who compete at a high level and earn their living from sport.

They give advice on how to train and compete safely, treat any injuries that occur and help people to rehabilitate afterwards.

They can be clinic based, linked to a sports team/club or a combination of both.

Sports therapists who work at a clinic:

  • See patients who have injured themselves during training or while competing in sport.
  • Assess and examine the injury, and talk to the patient about how it happened.
  • Give treatments which can include massage, mobilisations and electrotherapy, as well as applying strapping (elasticated bandage).
  • Develop a rehabilitation programme for patients, which can include an exercise programme designed to restore the normal range of movement and function.

Sports therapists who work for a club (such as a football, rugby or basketball club):

  • Help players prepare for a game, and assist coaching staff in testing a player's fitness, especially when the player is returning after an injury.
  • Stay by the side of the pitch or playing area during the game and sometimes during training sessions too, and offer first aid if anyone is injured.
  • After the game, treat players who have picked up minor injuries.
  • Confer with other professionals in more serious cases of injury, and may arrange for the player to go to hospital or see a specialist.
  • Are usually part of a larger team that includes coaches, managers, doctors and other sports scientists.

All sports therapists have to keep secure and accurate records of treatments and patients' progress.

Sports therapy is a comparatively new career within sports science. The main difference from physiotherapy is that there is a heavy emphasis on sports science during training and sports therapists are also trained to carry out first aid.

Sports therapists will usually work 36 hours a week, but irregular hours are normal, and evening and weekend work is common.

Sports therapists work in a well-lit treatment room containing a couch for patients to lie on and specialist equipment for electrotherapy. They spend a lot of the time standing and carrying out massage and manipulation, which can be tiring.

Depending on the sport in which they work, they may spend time outside in all weathers during matches and training, as well as in gyms, sports halls and swimming pools.

Some local, regional and international travel may be involved, depending on the employer.

A newly-qualified sports therapist working in a clinic earns around £17,000 a year. Hourly rates for private work in a clinic vary between £25 and £35 an hour.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Sports therapists may work in sports injuries clinics, (which may be private or part of the NHS), health clubs and leisure centres, or for sports national governing bodies and sports clubs, both professional and amateur.

Entry to this career is very competitive, but as the government places more emphasis on encouraging people to take exercise, there is likely to be a growing need for professionals who can help treat injuries, give advice on how to train and compete safely, and help people to rehabilitate.

Many sports therapists work part time for several employers as full-time posts are hard to find, particularly for those who are less experienced.

The Society of Sports Therapists (SST) is currently working to achieve state registration for sports therapy, which will make it a graduate occupation. Only those with a Health Professions Council (HPC)-recognised qualification in sports therapy will then be able to register and work as a sports therapist. Until this happens there are no accurate figures as to the number of sports therapists currently practicing in the UK.

Job vacancies are not advertised very often and sports therapists need to develop contacts and become involved with sport, sometimes on a voluntary basis, in order to build their reputation.

Some jobs may be advertised on the SST website -

Education and Training

Until state registration comes into effect, the entry requirements for sports therapists are not specific; however most entrants are graduates.

The Society of Sports Therapists (SST) accredits a range of Diploma and degree courses throughout the UK. Their website contains full details.

It is important to choose an accredited course as this will give appropriate training and also allow access to professional indemnity insurance. This is essential in covering a sports therapist against any accidental injury to a client.

Accredited courses in sports therapy cover sports psychology, sports biomechanics, and nutrition, as well as treatment techniques and first aid. They are specifically geared towards working in the sports environment.

Accredited courses include:

BSc in sports therapy - entry requirements vary, but usually include a minimum of two A levels, one of which should be a science, and five GCSE's (A*-C), usually to include English and maths. Entry may also be possible with a BTEC National Diploma or equivalent, and the Diploma in sport and active leisure (available from September 2010) may also be relevant.

Foundation degree in sports therapy - entry requirements vary although usually include at least one A level in science, physical education or sports studies, a BTEC National Diploma in sports studies or equivalent, plus at least four GCSE's (A*-C).

BTEC HND in sports therapy/rehabilitation - entry requirements are usually a minimum of one A level and four GCSE's (A*-C) or equivalent.

MSc in sports therapy - for graduates in sports science or sports and exercise who want to gain an accredited qualification in sports therapy.

Students who complete an accredited course are eligible for membership of the SST.

To work with children or vulnerable adults, applicants need to undergo checks through the Criminal Records Bureau.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Continuing professional development (CPD) is extremely important in sports therapy as the profession is constantly developing. All members of the SST must undertake at least 15 hours of CPD a year and maintain a valid first aid certificate.

It is also common for sports therapists, particularly those who are self-employed, to take additional qualifications while they are working to improve their skills base.

Some sports therapists may go on to take an MSc in sports physiotherapy or sports medicine.

SkillsActive is responsible for developing and maintaining the national occupational standards for sports therapy.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Sports therapists need:

  • Excellent communication and people skills.
  • To understand the demands of sports professionals working at a high level.
  • To be persuasive, especially when explaining to a patient that they need to take active rest rather than play sport.
  • The ability to reassure clients.
  • Patience, tact and empathy when clients are in pain or frustrated by their injuries.
  • To work well in a team.
  • Motivational skills to encourage clients to persevere with treatment and therapy.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • A flexible approach to work.
  • To be able to keep accurate records.

Your Long Term Prospects

There is no set career path for sports therapists. In larger clinics and professional sports clubs which employ more than one sports therapist, it may be possible to move into a supervisory or management role.

There are also opportunities for self-employment, with many sports therapists setting up private clinics.

Some sports therapists may also lecture on full- or part-time courses.

Get Further Information

The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES),
Leeds Metropolitan University,
Carnegie Faculty of Sport and Education,
Fairfax Hall, Headingley Campus,
Beckett Park, Leeds LS6 3QS
Tel: 0113 283 6162

English Institute of Sport, 4th Floor,
Byrom House, 21 Quay Street,
Manchester M3 3JD
Tel: 0870 759 0400

Health Professions Council, Park House,
184 Kennington Park Road, London SE11 4BU
Tel: 020 7582 0866

SkillsActive, Castlewood House,
77-91 New Oxford Street, London WC1A 1PX.
Careers advice helpline: 08000 933300

Society of Sports Therapists,
16 Royal Terrace, Glasgow G3 7NY
Tel: 0845 600 2613

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