How to Become a Physical Therapist in Sports Medicine

For those who seek the more glamorous side of physical therapy there is no more immediately high profile venue than a career in physical therapy specializing in sports medicine. This is because physical therapists who work in sports medicine work on retainer or on contract with a specific team, club, or organization. And because physical therapists are in high demand – usually due to a high incidence of injuries during a normal season – you can pick what sport you want to work with.

Physical therapists have their pick of venue when working in sports medicine. You can choose from hockey, football, baseball, competitive athletics, figure skating, competitive martial arts, and many, many more types of sports. And, because all of these sports produce injuries through regular practice, there will always be a demand for physical therapists. So, not only do you get to work in an industry most people can only dream of working in, but you get paid extremely well to do so.

For those for whom this career path is a must, we’ve outlined below some of the basic steps you need to know if you’re going to find out how to become a physical therapist specializing in sports medicine.

Qualification

To actively practice as a physical therapist you need to have your Graduate Degree, and it helps to have acquired your Undergraduate Degree in a BSc, or Bachelor of Sciences, program. When seeking out a Graduate program that suits your needs and career goals, one thing to look for is a school that either concentrates on your specialization, or that has a high track record of alumni who work as physical therapists specializing in sports medicine.

You’ll also need to make sure that the school you choose is properly accredited – and for that you can use the American Physical Therapy Association’s website (http://www.apta.org).

Experience

Practical experience is absolutely invaluable when it comes to working as a physical therapist. To help you gain that experience, and level of self confidence that comes with it, most physical therapy programs and degrees require that you perform either co-op or volunteer service in your field as part of your education. The easiest way to do this, since it is nearly impossible to get volunteer training with a professional sports team’s practicing physical therapist(s), is to seek volunteer or work placement experience with a high school in need of physical therapists to work with their sports teams.

And if you prefer to try for general experience as a physical therapist rather than specifically going after experience as a physical therapist in sports medicine, you can always volunteer with a local rehabilitation center. These organizations tend to be in need of volunteer aid, and are a great training ground for aspiring physical therapists.

Licensing

Once you have attained your Graduate Degree you need to get licensed in order to practice as a physical therapist. In order to get licensed, you also need to have attained good scores on your National Physical Therapy Examination. It is also worth noting that your State likely has additional requirements before you may attempt your licensing exams – most States require you to pass two or more exams before you can acquire your license to practice. If in doubt as to what is required of you before you can apply to take the licensing exams, contact your State’s medical and healthcare licensing board or body to find out about the exact nature of your State’s certification and its requirements.

Improvement

Once you have acquired your license, it is highly recommended that you join the APTA (American Physical Therapists Association). The APTA provides a common ground for physical therapists to share information, knowledge, address problems or concerns, and acts as a repository of information concerning continuing education and updating courses for its members. The APTA is also an excellent way to find seminars, conferences, and other opportunities to meet your fellow physical therapists.


The APTA is one of the best ways to keep in touch with your constantly changing profession, as well as to keep abreast of any legal changes that crop up which you need to be aware of. Never forget that physical therapy is a medical practice and is subject to the same rules of conduct and code of ethics as any other medical profession, making it vitally important for you to keep abreast of legal requirements concerning your practice.

Physical Presentation

It goes without saying, but a physical therapist who is not in good health does not inspire confidence in their patients. Still, some physical therapists let themselves go, content to get by on their reputation. But the state of your own health is the first impression you make on your patients, and your corporate clients.

It is also important to remain in good physical shape because you work in a fairly strenuous field. You dispense medical advice regularly, and you need to have the patients you are treating accept your advice based on seeing how it works for you as well.

The career path of a physical therapist specializing in sports medicine can be a demanding one. And like any medical profession it requires perseverance, a willingness to put the needs of the team ahead of one’s own needs, and being comfortable fading into the background while others shine. But there is recognition to be had too, as well as the knowledge that those athletes who perform exceptionally and to their own acclaim do so because you have helped them, and kept them in peak condition. Physical therapy in sports medicine is a highly rewarding profession, both professionally and personally. And the work is highly lucrative as well, ensuring that you can help others, and provide well for yourself and your family.

Now that you know the basics of how to become a physical therapist specializing in sports medicine, take the time to explore the options available to you regarding schools and training, and any financial aid available to you. Good luck!