11 October, 2023 | Posted by Jenny Smith

Discover Sports Therapy as a Diverse and Rewarding Career Path

Sports therapy is a specialised field dedicated to the assessment, treatment, and rehabilitation of injuries sustained during sports or physical activity.

Professionals in this field, often referred to as sports therapists, work diligently to bring athletes and active individuals back to their optimal level of function. This profession offers a unique blend of challenges and rewards, making it an attractive career path for many. 

One of the most notable aspects of sports therapy is its inherent diversity. The range of injuries that a sports therapist might encounter can vary from common sprains and strains to complex post-surgical rehabilitation. 

Since sports and physical activities span a wide range of disciplines – from basketball and soccer to dance and martial arts – therapists are continually learning and adapting their approaches based on the specific demands of each sport. This constant evolution ensures that the profession remains intellectually stimulating. 

The rewards of a career in sports therapy are plentiful. One of the most significant rewards is the profound impact therapists have on an individual's life. Helping an athlete or any individual return to the sport they love after an injury can be deeply satisfying.  

Witnessing the progress, from the early stages of pain and immobility to the final stages of full function and performance, provides a sense of accomplishment that few professions can match.

Garret Lonergan is a final year BSc (Hons) Sports Therapy student at Portobello Institute. In the video below, he explains the relevance of his coursework for the career he wants.



What is the role of a sports therapist? 

The roaring crowds, the adrenaline-pumping moments, the triumphant victories – sports captivate hearts and minds around the world. But behind every athlete's peak performance is an expert team of unsung heroes ensuring they're at their physical best.

Enter the sports therapist, a pivotal figure in the world of athletics. If you've ever wondered about the magic behind swift recoveries and optimised performances, you're in for a treat. Let's dive into the dynamic and essential role of a sports therapist. 

Sports therapy, at its core, revolves around understanding and preventing sports-related injuries, as well as treating them when they occur. It's a specialised branch of healthcare that bridges the gap between performance and medicine. 

Duties and Responsibilities 

Injury Assessment: Before any treatment can begin, a sports therapist conducts thorough evaluations. Using clinical tests and, at times, diagnostic tools, they pinpoint the exact nature and extent of an injury. 

Injury Prevention: By understanding an athlete's body and the specific demands of their sport, therapists advise on techniques, routines, and exercises that minimise the risk of injury. 

Rehabilitation: This involves a structured approach to help athletes recover post-injury. Techniques might include manual therapy, electrotherapy, hydrotherapy, and specific strengthening exercises. 

Performance Enhancement: Sports therapists provide insights into biomechanics, posture, and muscle imbalances, offering tailored advice that can optimise an athlete's performance. 

Education: Whether it's about nutrition, hydration, or recovery techniques, sports therapists equip athletes with the knowledge to take proactive care of their bodies. 

Taping and Strapping: In some sports, protective taping or strapping can be essential. Sports therapists are trained in these techniques, ensuring joints are supported without compromising mobility. 

On-the-Spot Care: During games or competitions, sports therapists might be present on the sidelines, ready to provide immediate care or assess whether an injured athlete can continue competing. 

Collaboration: Sports therapists often work in tandem with other healthcare professionals, coaches, and trainers. This collaboration ensures a holistic approach to an athlete's health and performance. 

Continuous Learning: The world of sports medicine is constantly evolving. A part of a therapist's responsibility is staying updated with the latest techniques, research, and innovations. 

Designing Individualised Programs: Recognising that every athlete is unique, sports therapists often design personalised rehabilitation and conditioning programs that cater to individual needs and goals. 

Mental Wellbeing: While their primary focus is physical health, sports therapists are also attuned to the mental and emotional well-being of athletes. They can provide basic counselling or refer athletes to specialized professionals when necessary. 

The Journey to Becoming a Sports Therapist 

Aspiring sports therapists typically pursue a degree in sports therapy or a related field. Courses often cover topics like anatomy, physiology, and the principles of rehabilitation. Additionally, hands-on experience through internships or placements is invaluable, offering real-world insights and the chance to apply theoretical knowledge. 

Beyond the allure of working closely with athletes and sports teams, the profession offers immense satisfaction. There's the joy of helping people, seeing an injured athlete return to their passion, the thrill of being part of championship-winning teams, and the fulfilment of knowing you're making a tangible difference in people's careers and lives. 

The world of sports, with its highs and lows, demands a support system that understands the rigours athletes undergo. Sports therapists stand as pillars in this ecosystem, ensuring athletes are always at their best, come what may. If you're passionate about sports, intrigued by human anatomy, and keen on making a difference, a career in sports therapy might just be your calling. Here's to the champions behind the champions – the sports therapists shaping athletic dreams!

Jake Nalepa owns and runs his own studio gym, Excel Fitness Studiosand runs the fitness program at Castleknock Lawn Tennis Club in Dublin.

He is a graduate of Portobello Institute's BSc (Hons) in Sports Therapy.

My career path to Sports Therapy came from working on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) circuit with professional tennis players. I had to double up as a strength and conditioning coach and a massage therapist. I got interested in the injury prevention/rehabilitation side of the sport and it led me to Portobello.

“Completing this course allowed me to offer a more comprehensive service to the players I was working with. I also thought it provided another depth to my existing knowledge of strength and conditioning," he said.

What is the day-to-day life of a sports therapist? 

The role of a sports therapist is dynamic, engaging, and ever-evolving, with each day presenting new challenges and opportunities. While specific duties can vary based on the setting and clientele, let's explore a typical day in the life of a sports therapist: 


Preparation and Review: The day often starts by reviewing appointments and client files. This helps in planning treatments, therapies, or exercises for the day ahead. 

Equipment Check: Before any sessions begin, it's crucial to ensure all equipment—from therapy tables to electrotherapy devices—is clean, functional, and ready for use. 

First Appointments: The morning usually sees a mix of regular clients coming in for routine treatments and new clients requiring evaluations. For new athletes, the therapist might perform a comprehensive assessment to determine the nature of injuries or to design a preventive regimen. 


Training Sessions: Depending on the setup, sports therapists might conduct group sessions, focusing on specific exercises, stretches, or techniques that benefit multiple clients. 

Lunch and Break: Given the physical demands of the job, it's crucial for therapists to take breaks, ensuring they remain energised and focused for the afternoon sessions. 

Collaboration: This time can also be used for meetings with other healthcare professionals, coaches, or trainers to discuss athletes' progress, challenges, and any adjustments needed in their regimens. 


Specialised Therapies: The afternoon might be reserved for more intensive or specialised treatments. This could involve electrotherapy, hydrotherapy, or massage sessions. 

On-the-field Observation: If working with a sports team or in a school setting, therapists might spend time observing practices or games. This helps in understanding real-time demands on athletes and any potential risks. 

Emergency Interventions: In case of any acute injuries during practices or matches, immediate assessments and first-aid interventions might be required. 


Wrap-Up Sessions: The last appointments of the day might involve cool-down exercises, final assessments, or feedback sessions with athletes. 

Documentation: Like any healthcare profession, meticulous record-keeping is essential. Therapists update client files with progress notes, treatment details, and any observations. 

Preparation for the Next Day: Before signing off, therapists often prepare for the next day—scheduling equipment, setting up therapy spaces, and reviewing appointments. 

The life of a sports therapist is marked by a balance of hands-on treatments, strategic planning, and continuous learning.  

Each day is an opportunity to make a tangible difference in an athlete's performance and well-being.  

While the role comes with its challenges, the satisfaction of aiding recovery, optimising performance, and witnessing athletes' milestones makes it immensely rewarding. 

What are the career opportunities in sports therapy? 

Sports therapy exists within a vibrant intersection of sports and healthcare and has rapidly emerged as a cornerstone in the athletic world. As athletes push the boundaries of human capabilities, the demands on their bodies intensify.  

Herein lies the role of the sports therapist, not just as a healer post-injury, but as a guide, ensuring athletes remain at their peak physically and mentally. It's a profession where science meets passion, and every day is an opportunity to merge analytical expertise with the dynamic world of sports.  

If the thrill of the game resonates with you, but you're equally intrigued by the science behind peak performance, then a journey into sports therapy offers a fascinating blend of both worlds.  

The field of sports therapy is expansive and offers multiple opportunities for those passionate about sports and healthcare. With the rising awareness of the importance of physical wellbeing and the intricacies of athletic performance, sports therapists have become invaluable assets in various sectors.  

Here's an overview of the career opportunities and potential work environments in sports therapy.

Career Opportunities

Clinical Sports Therapist: Work in clinics dedicated to treating sports injuries, offering treatments ranging from manual therapy to rehabilitation exercises. 

Team Therapist: Join sports teams, either at the club level or even national teams, to ensure players remain in optimal condition and receive immediate care for any injuries. 

Rehabilitation Specialist: Focus specifically on helping athletes recover post-injury, designing and overseeing specialised rehabilitation programs. 

Performance Enhancement Consultant: Work closely with athletes to improve their physical capabilities, offering insights into biomechanics, nutrition, and advanced recovery techniques. 

Researcher: Engage in research activities, exploring new treatment modalities, injury prevention techniques, or the effects of different therapeutic interventions on athletic performance. 

Educator: Teach at colleges or universities, offering courses in sports therapy, rehabilitation, and related fields. This role might also involve delivering workshops or seminars to athletes, coaches, or fellow therapists. 

Sports Massage Therapist: Specialise in massage techniques that alleviate muscle tension, enhance recovery, and prevent injuries. 

Consultant: Provide expert advice to sports organisations, clubs, schools, or even fitness centers on best practices for injury prevention, equipment usage, and athlete wellness. 

Entrepreneur: Start your own clinic or consultancy service, catering to athletes or the general public, focusing on sports injuries and wellness. 

Environments You Can Work In

Sports Clinics: Dedicated facilities that focus on treating sports-related injuries and improving athletic performance. 

Health Clubs and Gyms: Offer therapy and rehabilitation services to members, especially those engaged in rigorous physical training. 

Educational Institutions: Schools, colleges, or universities that have sports teams often employ therapists to care for their student-athletes. 

Professional Sports Teams: From football clubs to Olympic teams, sports therapists are essential members of the support staff. 

Private Practices: Run a personal clinic, offering specialised services in sports therapy. 

Rehabilitation Centers: Facilities focused on helping people recover from injuries, surgeries, or chronic conditions. 

Research Institutions: Organisations that conduct research into sports medicine, injury prevention, and related fields. 

On the Field: Work directly at sports events, competitions, or matches, offering on-the-spot treatments and assessments. 

The world of sports therapy is as dynamic as the games played on the field. Whether you're drawn to the clinical side, the adrenaline of live matches, or the academic aspects of sports medicine, there's a niche in sports therapy waiting for you.  

As our understanding of sports and biomechanics evolves, the role of sports therapists becomes even more crucial, promising a future full of opportunities and growth. 

Barry Moran graduated from Portobello Institute's BSc (Hons) in Sports Therapy and completed a work placement with Bohemian Football Club. 

What are the rewards and benefits of a career in sports therapy? 

In the amphitheatre of sports, where athletes dazzle with their prowess, there is an ensemble of professionals working tirelessly behind the scenes. Among them, sports therapists play a pivotal role in ensuring that athletes are always at their physical best.  

If you are considering a career in the world of sports therapy, it's essential to understand the rewards and benefits that accompany this dynamic profession. 

  1. Making a Tangible Difference:
    The primary reward for many sports therapists is the ability to make a real difference in a person or athlete's life. Helping someone recover from an injury, enhancing their performance, or aiding in prolonging their career is profoundly satisfying. Every day, you're presented with the opportunity to change someone's life for the better, and that’s a feeling hard to parallel.
  2. Immersion in the World of Sports:
    For sports enthusiasts, this career is a golden ticket into the heart of athletic action. Whether you're working with local teams, elite athletes, or even at major sporting events, you're at the epicenter of it all. Witnessing the highs and lows, the victories and defeats, and being an integral part of those journeys is exhilarating.
  3. Continuous Learning:
    The realm of sports medicine and therapy is always evolving, with new research, techniques, and technologies emerging regularly. This constant evolution means there's always something new to learn, ensuring your professional life remains engaging and intellectually stimulating.
  4. Flexibility and Autonomy:
    Many sports therapists, especially those running their own practices, enjoy a significant degree of flexibility. Whether it's choosing which clients to work with, setting your hours, or even deciding on specialisations, there's an element of autonomy that many professionals find appealing.
  5. Financial Rewards:
    Given the crucial nature of their role and the expertise required, sports therapists often command competitive salaries. Additionally, as with many professions, increased experience and specialisation can lead to even more lucrative opportunities.
  6. Building Relationships:
    Over time, sports therapists often forge strong bonds with their clients. Understanding an athlete's body, aspirations, and challenges can lead to relationships built on trust and mutual respect. These bonds can be one of the most rewarding aspects of the job.
  7. Diverse Work Environments:
    From schools and universities to professional sports teams, private clinics, and rehabilitation centres, sports therapists have a plethora of environments to choose from. This diversity can keep the career journey varied and exciting.
  8. Global Opportunities:
    Sports are a universal language, and the demand for skilled sports therapists exists worldwide. Whether it's working with a soccer team in Europe, attending a tennis tournament in Australia, or joining an Olympic medical team, the world is your oyster.

A career in sports therapy offers a harmonious blend of passion and profession. Beyond the tangible benefits, there is the joy of being part of an athlete's journey, ensuring they shine their brightest. If the idea of combining your love for sports with a desire to make a meaningful impact appeals to you, sports therapy beckons with open arms, promising rewards that extend well beyond the horizon. 

Sean Moriarty completed a PLC course and gained entry to Portobello Institute's BSc (Hons) Sports Therapy. He went on to gain his MSc in Physiotherapy and now works as a physiotherapist with the NHS in Scotland and in a private clinic.

The Intersection of Technology and Sports Therapy: The Future of Athletic Rehabilitation 

In the pulsating realm of sports, where every second counts and performance is paramount, the science of sports therapy is rapidly evolving.

With technology advancing at an unprecedented rate, it's redefining how therapists approach injury prevention, diagnosis, and rehabilitation.

As we stand on the cusp of a new era, let's delve into futuristic technology and emerging trends set to shape the world of sports therapy. 

  1. Wearable Technology:
    The ubiquity of wearable devices, like smartwatches and fitness trackers, is just the tip of the iceberg. Advanced wearables, equipped with biomechanical sensors, provide therapists with real-time data on an athlete's movements, muscle exertion, and even hydration levels. This continuous stream of data allows for proactive interventions, potentially preventing injuries before they occur.
  2. Virtual and Augmented Reality:
    Imagine rehabilitating an injury using a virtual simulation or enhancing physical therapy routines with augmented reality exercises. These technologies are transcending the borders of gaming and entertainment, ushering in a new era for sports therapy. They offer immersive environments that can simulate real-world activities, aiding in faster and more effective recovery.
  3. 3D Motion Capture:
    Gone are the days of relying solely on the naked eye to analyse an athlete's movement. Advanced 3D motion capture systems provide intricate details about biomechanics, helping therapists understand movement patterns, identify deviations, and design personalized corrective exercises.
  4. AI and Machine Learning:
    Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning are revolutionising diagnostics. By analysing vast amounts of data from various athletes, these technologies can predict injury risks, recommend preventive measures, and even customise rehabilitation plans tailored to individual needs.
  5. Regenerative Medicine:
    The field of regenerative medicine, including treatments like platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and stem cell therapy, holds immense promise. These therapies aim to harness the body's healing capabilities, potentially speeding up recovery and ensuring athletes return to their sport in optimal condition.
  6. Teletherapy and Digital Platforms:
    The recent global events have underscored the importance of remote medical consultations. Teletherapy platforms, equipped with interactive tools, are enabling sports therapists to guide athletes through recovery phases, even from a distance. This ensures continuous care, irrespective of geographical barriers.
  7. Advanced Imaging Techniques:
    While MRI and X-rays have been staples in diagnostics, newer imaging modalities, such as functional MRIs and advanced ultrasonography, provide deeper insights into injuries. They allow therapists to understand the extent of damage and the healing process at a micro-level.
  8. Personalised Genomic Analysis:
    With the decoding of the human genome, there's a move towards understanding an athlete's genetic predisposition towards certain injuries. Tailoring therapy and preventive measures based on genetic makeup might soon be a reality.

The confluence of sports and technology promises a future where injuries might be minimal, recovery faster, and athletic performance optimised like never before.

For aspiring sports therapists or even athletes themselves, staying abreast of these innovations is essential.

As we gaze into the future of sports therapy, one thing is clear: technology will be the linchpin, driving change, enhancing care, and redefining what's possible in the world of sports. 

What kind of skills do you need as a sports therapist? 

The adrenaline-filled world of sports, with its highs and lows, is as demanding mentally and emotionally as it is physically.  

In this dynamic arena, sports therapists serve as the unsung heroes, ensuring that athletes stay in top shape and recover effectively from injuries.  

If you've ever contemplated a career ensuring athletes' optimal health, you might wonder: What does it take? What skills are essential in this profession? Well, grab your notepad because we're diving deep into the indispensable skills every budding sports therapist needs! 

  1. A Strong Grasp of Anatomy and Physiology:
    At the heart of sports therapy lies a deep understanding of the human body. A comprehensive knowledge of musculoskeletal anatomy, biomechanics, and physiological processes is crucial. After all, to heal the body, one must first know the body.
  2. Excellent Communication Skills:
    A significant part of a sports therapist's job involves interacting with athletes, coaches, and other healthcare professionals. Being able to explain medical jargon in understandable terms, actively listening to an athlete's concerns, and providing clear instructions are all essential.
  3. Problem-Solving Prowess:
    Every injury or physical challenge is a puzzle waiting to be solved. Therapists must assess the situation, use their knowledge, and often think on their feet to devise effective treatment plans.
  4. Hands-on Technical Skills:
    From massage techniques to operating physiotherapy equipment, a sports therapist needs to be adept at various hands-on treatments. This requires both training and a certain level of physical dexterity.
  5. Patience and Empathy:
    Recovery can be a slow process, filled with frustrations for the injured athlete. Here, a therapist's patience and empathy become invaluable, providing support and understanding during challenging times.
  6. Continuous Learning and Adaptability:
    The world of sports medicine is ever-evolving. Being open to continuous learning, attending workshops, and staying updated with the latest research are non-negotiable skills.
  7. Teamwork:
    Often, sports therapists work in tandem with other professionals like doctors, nutritionists, and coaches. Being a good team player ensures holistic care for the athlete.
  8. Organisational Skills:
    Managing appointments, keeping track of treatment progress, and organising therapy equipment are all in a day's work. Good organisational skills ensure smooth operations and effective therapy sessions.
  9. Ethical Judgement:
    Sports therapists often face scenarios requiring them to make ethical decisions, be it respecting patient confidentiality or providing unbiased care regardless of the stakes in a competition.
  10. Passion for Sports:
    While this might sound like a given, having genuine passion and interest in sports can be a driving force. It offers insights into the demands and intricacies of different athletic disciplines.

Embarking on a career in sports therapy isn't just about knowing the science; it's about melding knowledge with interpersonal skills, passion with professionalism, and expertise with empathy.  

If you resonate with the skills mentioned above and envision a career where every day is an opportunity to make a difference, the world of sports therapy eagerly awaits your prowess. Here's to the journey of healing, supporting, and elevating the champions of the sports world. 

Dan O’Mahony graduated from Portobello Institute's BSc (Hons) Sports Therapy degree in 2018. Immediately after graduating, he started his MSc in Physiotherapy at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI).

“Before I started the course, I didn’t really understand what each area entailed. After Year 1, I knew what I liked and what I was good at. I knew therapy was the route for me," he said.

What are the educational and career progression routes from sports therapy? 

Diving into the dynamic world of sports therapy is an exhilarating decision, with the role offering an intricate blend of science, sports, and patient care. But as with many professions, the journey doesn't stop with your initial qualification.  

The world of sports therapy, vast and varied, offers numerous avenues for educational enrichment and career advancement. So, if you're asking, "What's next after becoming a sports therapist?", keep reading! 

Educational Progression 

Advanced Degrees:  

Masters and PhDs: Pursue higher degrees focusing on sports medicine, biomechanics, or related areas to deepen your knowledge and potentially move into research or academic roles. 

Specialised Certifications: Various organisations offer certifications in areas like strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, or specific therapeutic techniques. 

Conferences and Workshops: 

Regularly attending workshops, seminars, and conferences keeps you updated with the latest techniques, research, and best practices in the field. 

Cross-disciplinary Studies: 
Consider courses in areas like nutrition, psychology, or even sports management. These can enhance your holistic understanding and care approach for athletes. 

Career Progression


Orthopedic Sports Therapist: Focus on musculoskeletal issues, working alongside orthopaedic surgeons.

Pediatric Sports Therapist: Specialise in treating young athletes, and understanding the unique challenges and growth-related issues they face. 

Performance Enhancement Specialist: Work on optimising athletic performance, merging rehabilitation with strength and conditioning training. 

Team Positions: 
Sports teams, from collegiate to professional levels, often have dedicated medical teams. As you gain experience, roles like head sports therapist for prominent teams can be your next step. 

Management and Administrative Roles: 
With experience, you might transition into managerial positions, overseeing teams of therapists, running large sports rehabilitation centres, or even starting your venture. 

Academia and Research: 
After acquiring advanced degrees, you can venture into teaching future sports therapists or engage in research to push the boundaries of sports medicine. 

With a wealth of experience, sports therapists can become consultants for sports organisations, fitness centres, or educational institutions, guiding them on best practices. 

Broadening Horizons: 
Consider related roles like becoming a sports nutritionist, a strength and conditioning coach, or even a sports psychologist. These roles can be standalone or merged with your therapy practice for a comprehensive approach. 

Global Opportunities: 
Sports are universal, and with the right qualifications, experience, and networking, opportunities to work internationally—whether with sports teams, at events, or in clinics—can open up. 

Sports therapy, while a fulfilling career in itself, is also a springboard to new opportunities. As athletes continually push the envelope, the demand for skilled professionals who can support, heal, and enhance their capabilities only grows.

Whether you choose to dive deeper into research, expand into other related fields, or climb the ladder to high-profile roles, remember: the world of sports offers a vast playing field, and you're poised to make your mark! 

Find Out More

Portobello Institute has a dynamic sports department with a range of top qualifications for the next step in your career.

If you are interested in any of our sports courses or have any questions you can book a consultation call with our expert sports advisor Jason Lester, email jason.lester@portobelloinstitute.com or call 01 892 0029. 


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