sports therapy

A question I’ve been asked on several occasions, often followed by ‘is that like massage and stuff!’ In all honesty it’s quite a difficult question to answer for several reasons. Unlike most mainstream healthcare professions it is not regulated by the HCPC but instead comes under complimentary therapies, this means the title is not protected and essentially anyone with a sports massage qualification can use the title Sports Therapist (ST), that said many will preferentially use ‘Massage Therapist’, as many with a degree will use ‘Graduate Sports Therapist’ to differentiate.

That’s not to dismiss massage therapists as there are many who have spent years developing their skill and understanding, and are not necessarily any less knowledgeable than those flaunting a degree. With the availability of CPD courses sometimes those who trained initially as massage therapists will have added other treatment modalities to their skill set and be equipped to offer more than just massage – further adding to the confusion! An explanation I read that made the most sense to me was along the lines that with a degree the expectation is there that the practitioner should be better able to understand research to choose what to integrate into their practice.

Going back to the initial question, yes a Sports Therapist will often massage – amongst other things! Adding to the difficulty with the question is the various settings and teams that ST’s can work in, unsurprisingly many work in sports -some will work at events on an as and when basis, some work for teams/clubs either part time such as on match days providing pre-event work like massage, stretching and taping, as well as potentially pitch side first aid; some will work on training days too assessing injuries and designing rehabilitation plans; and some will work full time incorporating screening to prevent injuries as well as strength and conditioning. ST’s often work in gyms as availability of equipment to use for rehabilitative exercise is a huge benefit, and there’s many whose interest and additional qualifications lie in fitness. There are others who work equally as well in clinics, often alongside other healthcare practitioners. Some incorporate other additional qualifications such as nutrition or sports psychology into their roles too. The title itself can be a bit misleading as although it has ‘sports’ in it, the basis of what a ST predominantly does clinically is assess musculoskeletal injuries – not always sustained from sport! It is little wonder then that many go on to further education often studying aligned subjects such as Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy.

To conclude and try to answer the question ‘what is Sports Therapy?’ succinctly I think the simplest answer is ‘a many and varied thing’.

Editorial by FitFarms Health and Fitness Team

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