Sports therapists are specialists in dealing with sporting injuries. A sports therapist, or an athletic trainer, is a professional who works alongside athletes or highly active individuals. Sports therapists are a different profession from physical therapists. You will work specifically with athletes, while physical therapists work with clients of all backgrounds. The role of sports therapists has been developing for many decades. It is also an expanding profession. New treatments, research and theories are constantly being introduced. This makes sports therapy an exciting and developing profession.
What Does a Sports Therapist Do
The work of a sports therapist is to provide treatment, rehabilitation and support to those with sporting injuries. Additionally, you will also need to advise on the prevention of injuries. The key functions of a sports therapist are:
- You will use your expertise to conduct a fitness-level assessment on people involved in sport and exercise. Using this assessment you then develop, design and monitor rehabilitation programmes. They are always unique programmes which are designed to be appropriate to the injury.
- Supporting events is also important. At these events you need to be ready to provide emergency aid. You might also need to give basic life support in a sports and exercise environment.
- Diagnosing sports injuries that affect the musculoskeletal system is a part of your working day. To do this you must alleviate and manage pain using manual therapy techniques, exercise and therapeutic modalities.
- You will also be responsible for deciding whether athletes are fit to return to their standard level of activity. In doing this, you will counsel them appropriately.
- As a sports therapist you will also offer advice on exercises before an event or fixture.
- You need to be a team player. This is because you need to work with other health and sporting professionals to support complex injuries. This is done so that sports people reach and maintain peak performance.
- Your role is to mentally and physically prepare sports people for competitions.
- Checking and maintaining client records will be part of your working day. In doing this you will be recording details of client physical progress.
- It is important to treat each client as an individual. Each one will have their own support and therapy needs.
Who Employs Sports Therapists
Sports therapists in the UK can work in a variety of settings. These can include:
- Working with amateur sports clubs and teams. Further, this can be at a national, county or local level. It is also usually on a part-time or freelance basis.
- Working with professional sports clubs or teams is another option. These teams often employ full or part-time sports therapists.
- If you’re a freelancer, sports injury clinics could hire you on a part-time or full-time contract.
- The NHS also employs some sports therapists to deal with sports injuries of a serious nature.
- Leisure centres and sports clubs also usually employ sports therapists. You could also work in health and fitness clubs, and gyms .
- Sports science employment opportunities exist for researchers and sports scientists. There are also opportunities in further and higher education for academic-focused sports professionals. Others become experts in sports development.
- Private health clinics are another option. In this scenario, sports therapists work alongside a range of practitioners offer diverse treatments.
Job Salary for a Sports Therapist
Sources indicate a wide variety of salary levels for different types of sports therapists:
- Clinic-based sports therapists usually earn between £17,000 and £28,000.
- Privately employed sports therapists or those working with professional teams are estimated to earn up to £35,000.
- A private therapist in a clinic usually charges around £25 to £45 per session.
- NHS-based sports therapists start around £19,000 to £21,000.
Another source estimates the average sports therapist’s salary in the UK to be £37,725. This is based on a recorded minimum of £32,500. It also suggests a maximum salary of £93,600. Some other figures are useful to allow you to compare salaries. In the UK, the national average wage is estimated to be around £30,000 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The current National Living Wage (which must be paid to people aged 23 and over) means the minimum untaxed income for a 40-hour week is over £21,000 per year. As with other jobs, there are significant regional differences in the salary of a sports therapist in different parts of the UK. Sports therapists in London and the South East of England are, like other professions, paid more than in other parts of the UK.
How Often is a Sports Therapist Normally Paid
Sports therapists can normally expect to be paid a salary every month. If you are self-employed you can expect to draw a salary more irregularly, perhaps weekly, depending on the amount of work you have done.
Who Negotiates a Job Salary for a Sports Therapist
Salaries tend to be specific to the employer because there is such variation in the types of organisation that is offering the contract.
What Sort of Contracts Do Sports Therapists Have
Sports therapists tend to have different types of contracts depending on the nature of the employer.
Earning Potential of Sports Therapists
Most sports therapists are either self-employed or have two or more part-time jobs aligned with their professional skills. It is common for sports therapists to be working for several different types of employers at the same time. The earning potential is usually strongly linked to the experience level and nature of employment of a sports therapist.
How to Become a Sports Therapist
Although you don’t necessarily need to be an athlete or player, most sports therapists come from this sort of background. Direct experience in coaching or mentoring in sports is also very beneficial, as is an appreciation of different sports and the injuries that can be sustained. To become a sports therapist, you should focus on building up a positive reputation and deepening your knowledge at the same time. Good ways of doing this include:
- Playing or coaching a sport.
- Gathering work experience with sports clubs and clinics.
- Joining different community sports organisations.
Qualifications/Courses – Sports Therapist
Although you don’t need a degree to practise as a sports therapist in the UK, many jobs now require a degree-level qualification and membership of the Society of Sports Therapists. There are an expanding number of sports-related degrees on offer and the Society accredits many of them. Issues that would be covered in a sports therapy degree include:
If you have a sports therapy degree, you could decide to go on to a part-time Masters’s course while you work. You would need to pay the costs of this yourself. Improving and building on qualifications enables you to offer a wider range of treatments. It also demonstrates your continuing professional development (CPD).
Registering as a Sports Therapist
The role of sports therapists has been developing for many decades and is an expanding profession. New treatments, research and theories are constantly being introduced, making this an exciting and developing profession. One of the consequences of this development is that an emphasis is now put on membership of the Society of Sports Therapists. Many jobs insist on membership. Sports therapists do not have to register with a professional body, but membership of the Society of Sports Therapists is recommended. It can help you secure professional malpractice and public liability insurance but, more importantly, the Society is geared to help you maintain your continuing professional development (CPD) portfolio. The range of CPD activities includes completing short courses, workshops and seminars along with reading current research and articles. Attendance at conferences and exhibitions will also count, as does reflective practice.
Sports-related Skills Required
- You must have an understanding of how human anatomy and physiology work, and how exercise medicine may inform their treatment.
- The ability to motivate and encourage others is essential.
- A positive attitude to problem-solving is needed to be a successful sports therapist.
- The ability to work alone, using your initiative, is very important. You need to have a proactive mindset.
- A good level of physical fitness is as important as self-motivation and confidence.
- Direct experience in coaching or mentoring in sports is also very beneficial, as is an appreciation of different sports and the injuries that can be sustained.
- Excellent communication skills and interpersonal skills are needed because you will be working with a wide variety of different people from different walks of life and, sometimes, a wide variety of ages,
- You will also need to be able to put patients at their ease and gain their confidence. This includes the ability to work sensitively and constructively with patient fears.
- Intention to be a good team player with a wider team (if one exists) and the ability to work constructively with others carrying out aligned tasks in sports healthcare.
Business-related Skills Required
- A full UK driving licence is useful.
- A clean Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check is required for people who wish to work as sports therapists with children or vulnerable adults.
- Some computer literacy to record information relating to patients.
- Confidentiality relating to patient records.
- If you’re working freelance, you’ll also need skills in business administration, promotion, marketing and networking.
- Organisation and time management skills are always needed to match your workload and multiple commissions of work.
Challenges of Being a Sports Therapist
- Few sports therapists draw their income from just one source. You may have to develop a portfolio career, involving part-time work in several clinics and with multiple amateur or professional sports clubs.
- You will usually need to wear protective a uniform.
- Exposure to harsh weather conditions if you work outside.
- Extensive travel, including international travel, can interrupt your home life. Additionally, this is especially true of the intensity of work during the season if you work in a specific sport.
- Knowing the scope of your abilities is important. If injuries or health-related issues go beyond your scope of practice, you need to know how to respond. Specifically, the appropriate action is to refer the patient to an appropriate healthcare professional.
- You will need to refresh your skills periodically. This means keeping your knowledge up to date throughout your career. This is because new treatments, research and theories are constantly being introduced.
Type of Person Suited for this Work
- A person with a strong interest in sports makes a good sports therapist. Further, you also need to be someone with good personal health and fitness.
- You need to be someone with a patient outlook. Additionally, you need to be able to deal with stress.
- A team player who can work with other professionals, and can motivate and encourage others.
- A positive attitude to problem-solving is needed to be a successful sports therapist.
- The ability to work alone, using your initiative, is very important. To do this you need to have a proactive mindset.
- Again, you also need to be someone with self-motivation and confidence.
General Expected Working Hours
It is estimated that sports therapists work around 37 hours a week, but the figure is hard to prove because the hours are often irregular. Some evening and weekend work is common to accommodate sporting events. If you specialise in a particular sport, you will need to be available seven days a week during the season.
Location of Work
Sports therapists can work in a variety of locations including:
- You could be working with sports clubs or in leisure centres. Another option is to work within health and fitness clubs or gyms.
- Additionally, you could be based with professional sports clubs or teams.
- Working at sports injury clinics is also an option. A small number also do this work within the NHS.
- Colleges with sports departments are another possible work location.
- Finally, you could work from a private health clinic.
As a sports therapist you will have a wide range of career prospects. The majority of therapists start to build their careers using a portfolio approach. A highly experienced sports therapist might move into lecturing. This can be done in either further or higher education.