19 August, 2021 | Posted by Cian Fahey

What is Sports Therapy and How Does it Relate to Physiotherapy?

Sports Therapy and Physiotherapy Differences

Physiotherapists and Sports Therapists are two different occupations that exist in the same world.

To become a fully qualified physiotherapist you must complete a degree in physiotherapy. To become a fully qualified sports therapist you must complete a degree in sports therapy.

Upon graduation from the BSc (Hons) Sports Therapy degree at Portobello Institute, students are accredited by The Society of Sports Therapists.

Our Sports Therapy graduates are not qualified physiotherapists.

Instead, they can use their Sports Therapy degree as a pathway to a master's in physiotherapy. This is a proven pathway that students have taken advantage of to earn a Level 9 physiotherapy degree in the same time it takes to earn a Level 8 physiotherapy degree at other colleges.

Sports Therapy in itself is a standalone profession. The Society of Sports Therapists defines Sports Therapy as:

“Sports Therapy is an aspect of healthcare that is specifically concerned with the prevention of injury and the rehabilitation of the patient back to optimum levels of functional, occupational and sports specific fitness, regardless of age and ability.”

They note that sports therapists use the principles of sport and exercise science to incorporate physiological and pathological processes that prepare the participant for training, competition, and work.

It sounds an awful lot like a physiotherapist and it’s true that the two roles share many of the same aspects.

Body Set is a company based in the UK that employs both physiotherapists and sports therapists. Their clients can choose who on staff better suits their needs when injured. To help their clients decide, they have defined the differences between sports therapists and physiotherapists.

While noting that you have to speak in broad terms to define the differences, Body Set outlines the key differences as:

  • Physiotherapists have a broader knowledge base and medical background to treat illnesses, diseases, and neurological and respiratory issues.
  • Sports Therapists focus more so on musculoskeletal rehabilitation which makes them more attractive to patients who are aiming to return to exercise.

The key differences are important to embrace, especially when considering the importance of your qualifications being recognized by the appropriate bodies so you can legally work in your profession. But the broader roles share more similarities than they do differences.

Some shared aspects include massage, mobilisations and biomechanical analysis.

Having so many shared traits means that sports therapy undergraduates can confidently apply for master's degrees in physiotherapy. That is how the Portobello Institute BSc (Hons) Sports Therapy degree serves two purposes for its students.

By going through this alternative route to physiotherapy, you can become a qualified sports therapist and a qualified physiotherapist while never truly changing direction.

The specific value of being a sports therapist for graduates is that they can fill more roles in different organizations and take advantage of more opportunities. The Society of Sports Therapists outlines the ways in which sports therapists can treat those who are injured:

  • Utilise sports and exercise principles to optimise performance, preparation and injury prevention programmes.
  • Provide the immediate care of injuries and basic life support in a recreational, training, occupational and competitive environment.
  • Assess, treat, rehabilitate and, where and if appropriate, refer on for specialist advice and intervention.
  • Provide appropriate soft tissue interventions in a sport and exercise context.
  • Plan and implement appropriate rehabilitation and return to training/work programmes.

Sports Therapists understand how to prevent injuries, recognize and evaluate injuries, manage, treat and refer those who are injured, build rehabilitation plans for patients and educate others on professional practice issues.

If you want to become a sports therapist and/or a physiotherapist, the BSc (Hons) Sports Therapy degree route might be for you.

If you'd like to read more about the sports degrees and qualifications we carry, you can visit the department page here.

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 Sharde Sebastian here, email sharde.sebastian@portobelloinstitute.com or call 01 892 0029.

Featured in this article:
Johanna Shaw has a 2:1 in BSc (Hons) in Sports and Exercise Science from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh. She completed an MPhil Studentship in Physical Activity for Health alongside an Exercise Development role. She then went onto a Tackling Inactivity in Students role funded by Sport England within a Further Education College in London before moving back to Dublin to Portobello Institute. 

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