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What You Need to Know about Physiotherapy and Sports Physiotherapy

by Russell Thompson(more info)

listed in physiotherapy, originally published in issue 244 - February 2018

Do you know someone who had lost the use of their arms and legs after they have suffered from a stroke? Or someone whose limbs or other parts of the body had been injured so that they become useless? These people are usually recommended to undergo rehabilitation, which is done by a physiotherapist. However, you might have heard about sports therapists, too. What is the difference between the two? Here are the things that you must know about a physiotherapist and a sports physiotherapist.


Physio Massage, Pilates-Gym and Rehabilitation

Wyndham Physio & Rehabilitation

What Is Physiotherapy?

This term refers to a treatment that considers underlying problems of the body in order to help people gain and maintain maximum strength, movement, function, and general well-being. The patient’s lifestyle plays an important role in the treatment. For instance, a person who does not exercise may suffer from some muscular and joint injuries that cause him to suffer from pain. To get rid of the pain, he must change his lifestyle. If in the past, he just wants to sit and lie down, this time, he has to exercise regularly if he wants to get well.

People who engage in this profession are called physiotherapists or physical therapists. To be one, they have to take the course and earn a master’s degree in the same field. They are expected to take additional training and pass the board examination in order to be a certified physiotherapist.

In the past, physical therapy rehabilitation could last for several months especially with patients who have had injury to the spinal cord. Physical therapy sessions can be draining to the families of the victims not just emotionally and physically but most of all financially. This was one reasons why PT was not as popular as it is today. However, with the help of the latest technology and new ways of doing it, it takes only a few weeks for patients under rehabilitation to fully recover.

What Does a Physiotherapist Do?

Most medical specialists have specific jobs. For example, a surgeon operates on people; a dermatologist treats skin diseases while a dentist takes care of the teeth. Physiotherapists have several roles. Sometimes they have to evaluate the condition of the patient so that they can come up with a plan on how the treatment must be done. Other times, they have to teach patients who to walk normally again or how to use properly their crutches or walkers.

Physical therapists also conduct information dissemination campaigns and educate people about the prevention of injuries and the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle. They might also be asked to set up a fitness program in the community. If a patient needs to have a complete rest because of his injury, the physiotherapist is qualified to issue a medical certificate to support the patient’s sick leave.

Some practitioners may opt to specialize in just one of its areas. These areas include neurology, orthopaedics and trauma units, mental health, intensive care units, health education and promotion, long-term disabilities, general health, pediatric and geriatric care, rehabilitation after more surgeries, and sports rehabilitation in which the specialist works as a sports physiotherapist.

The rising interest of people in sports events has led to the establishment of several sports organizations. You can see how the fans of basketball teams or football teams would support and cheer their fans. Tickets for the games are sold at high prices, providing a lucrative source of revenue for the owners of the different teams. And the team owners spend good money to make their players win. They hire dieticians, doctors, and therapists that specialize in providing treatment for the injuries that athletes are prone to suffer. These include knee injury, groin pull, ankle and hamstring sprains, and shin splints. These afflictions are better treated by a physical therapist rather than a medical practitioner. Because of the intensity of the exertions needed when playing a game such as football and basketball, damage to the bones, joints, or tendons can cause impairment when not properly treated by a sports therapist.

What Is A Sports Physiotherapist?

A sports physiotherapist is one that specializes in treating injuries suffered by people involved in sports. These injuries are entirely different from those experienced by people during their day to day activities. Athletes are engaged in sports that put too much pressure and demands on their muscles, joints, and other parts of the body. Sports that are known to cause the most injuries to the players are volleyball, softball, wrestling, boxing, martial arts, gymnastics, cheerleading, baseball, soccer, football, and basketball. Among these sports, basketball has the highest number of injuries. If you watch basketball games, you can see how some players are seriously hurt. There are also more basketball teams compared to other sports; this has contributed to the big number of injuries suffered by the athletes.

It is the job of the sports physiotherapist to assess and treat them. He must educate the players on how getting injured can be prevented during games and competitions. These professionals possess the knowledge and skills in the prevention, management techniques, and the exercises needed so that the athletes will recover quickly and fully.

How Can You Become A Sports Physiotherapist?

The qualifications for a sports physiotherapist vary from country to county. In Australia, if you aspire to work in this field, you need to finish a four-year bachelor’s degree in Bachelor of Physical Therapy. After that, you must be registered with the Physical Therapy Board of Australia. Since the field of Sports Physical Therapy is experiencing lots of changes in how injuries are diagnosed, understood, and treated, a sports physiotherapist has to be updated with the latest developments in the area. To help them gain more knowledge that is related to their chosen career, these physiotherapists can take a master’s degree in sports as the specialization. They are expected to have mastered all knowledge in their field. Specific skills needed by these professionals are the ability to communicate well and to apply problem-solving skills in finding treatments that are suitable for a certain diagnosis.


Physiotherapy Gym Equipment

Wyndham Physio & Rehabilitation

Are There Excellent Job Opportunities for Sports Physiotherapists?

The changing views regarding the role of physiotherapists in maintaining good health have led to the increased demand for these professionals. Likewise, people are now health-conscious and they patronize everything that they believe could keep them healthy such as diets, exercise routines, and treatments such as physical therapy.

In Australia, hundreds of sports physiotherapists are needed by several sports organizations. This is because majority of Australians run to physiotherapists for some of their healthcare needs. Added to this is the fact that most sports teams in football, basketball, rugby, and other intense games have their resident physiotherapists to provide immediate treatment for athletes who got injured during the game. They travel with the team and their job is to provide immediate help to team members who suffer from injuries. While in the past, sports physiotherapists were known to treat injuries suffered by the players, today, they focus more on preventing such incidents from happening.

The specific functions of a sports therapist are determining the level of fitness of the players and providing advice regarding the kind of exercises to engage in before the game. He conducts tests to find out if the joints are working properly and if they are in top form. He provides support to athletes so that they become mentally and physically ready for the event. He may apply whatever techniques to guarantee that injuries are prevented. Some of these methods include strapping, massaging, and taping techniques.

Sports physiotherapists are present in the event venues at all times for emergencies. Once an athlete is injured, the sports physiotherapist takes over. He will assess the extent of the damage and apply the necessary treatment. He then has to decide whether or not the involved player can continue to play or not. If the athlete suffers from pain, it is his role to find ways to alleviate it. He plans and designs treatment programs and gives advice if the athlete has to undergo further treatments aside from what he can provide.

Aside from working for several sports associations, a sports physiotherapist may put up his own private practice alone or with some of his colleagues. In Australia, sports physiotherapists engaging in private practice earn from $90,000 to $110,000 a year aside from their income when they work for sports associations.

Ordinary people who need the help of physical therapists can easily find clinics that specialize in this field. These clinics hire highly qualified practitioners to make sure that top-quality assistance is always provided.

It is foreseen that the demand for physical therapists will go up at a faster rate from 2014 to 2024 compared to other professions. As a result, several schools offering the course have opened in the past years. In Australia alone, 23 universities are offering master’s degree programs for this profession and this includes a master’s degree for those aiming to become sports therapists.

Based on these facts, a bright future awaits the physiotherapists especially those that specialize in treating athletes. 


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About Russell Thompson

Russell Thompson Senior Physiotherapist is the owner of Wyndham Physio and Rehabilitation, professional physiotherapy centre in Australia. He has collaborated with various athletes to help improve their performance through his field of work. Through his services, he has helped various patients with their ailments. Russell may be contacted via

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