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What is a Sports Therapist?

In this business I get called all sorts! This isn’t something I encourage, nor is it anyone’s fault; differentiating between physiotherapists, sports therapists, chiropractors, sports massage therapists, osteopaths, podiatrists etc etc is not always the top of an injured persons list of “things to do”.  Similarly, I’m not going to sit here and list the pros and cons of each profession, I can merely tell you what I – a Sports Therapist – can do for you. says a Sports Therapist…

…. helps injured athletes return to full  performance, after injury. Injury treatment varies according to the sport or activity involved. A qualified Sports Therapist advises on prevention of injuries and can examine, assess and treat those that do occur, as well as helping with the rehabilitation process…..

…Sports therapists may be a member of The Society of Sports  Therapists or the Sports Therapy Organisation or both. This includes public liability insurance and  members are required to complete continued professional development  (CPD) per year. This involves attending courses and seminars to keep up to date with advances and new techniques and research.”

I would add to the above that it isn’t simply injured “athletes” that seek treatment, which is a potential pitfall in the title SPORTS Therapist.

The website goes on to say that…

Techniques which are often used in treatment include:

  • Sports Massage/Soft Tissue Therapy
  • Electrotherapy (Ultrasound/Interferential/TENS)
  • Taping (Strapping)
  • Muscle stretching techniques (including muscle energy techniques)
  • Muscle strengthening
  • Core stability training
  • Proprioception training

As my own career has progressed, I have trained in further areas such as strength and conditioning, joint mobilisations and manipulations, neurology and pain science, and exercise therapy, whilst dropping a few of techniques listed above, to try to enable as comprehensive a treatment list as possible.

Some professions are more protective than others. As friend and colleague of mine Andrew Spaak (of West Berkshire Sports Massage says:

“I quite often get referred to as a Physio. Now this is a slight problem as I’m not a Physio, I’m a Sports Therapist. The title Physiotherapist is a protected title. I’m not legally allowed to call myself a Physio and quite rightly.”

This nicely sums up the inevitable confusion within the industry. This isn’t helped by lack of Statutory Regulations within Sports Therapy, which highlights the need for clients to ask the person treating them what they are qualified in, and therefore what they are qualified – and so insured – to treat. For example, a Level 3 Qualified Sports Masseur is qualified to treat ‘Non Pathological Tissue’ only i.e. healthy, un-injured soft tissue (, so is probably not best placed to treat injury.

A key attribute of all therapists, regardless of job title, is the acknowledgement of weaknesses; If by the 3rd treatment there has been no improvement in your condition, a good therapist will re-evaluate your problem and, if deemed necessary, refer you on to another practitioner whom they feel will be able to help. I am certainly not arrogant enough to claim to have all the answers.

So, in summation, whoever it is you go to see, and whatever title they hold, don’t be afraid to ask questions, expect explanations for the techniques they are recommending and if you aren’t seeing the results that your practitioner has predicted, ensure you are comfortable with where your treatment is going. If not, an alternative opinion is always out there.

N.B. There are no ‘one size fits all’ style quick fixes in most injury scenarios, so these article shouldn’t be seen as such. They are merely guides to a better understanding of how our bodies work.

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