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Since its inception 22 years ago, The Society of Sports Therapists is frequently asked, ‘What is a Sports Therapist?’ Even now there is confusion which, not only causes problems, but in many instances misunderstanding about the knowledge and skills that this specific occupational group possess.
Therefore for clarification - A Sports Therapist is a healthcare professional who has the knowledge, skills and ability to:
- 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 & competitive environment
- Assess, treat and, where appropriate, refer on for specialist advice and intervention.
- Provide appropriate sport and remedial massage in a sport & exercise context
- Plan and implement appropriate rehabilitation programmes
The spectrum of expertise that a Member of The Society of Sports Therapists must possess is built within five key areas of competency. These are:
- Prevention of injuries Recognition & evaluation of injuries
- Management, treatment & appropriate referral
- Education & counselling
Within each of these areas Sports Therapists and specifically those at Graduate level, are trained and educated in principles that have sound practical and evidence based philosophies with solid sport and exercise science foundations.
As such, Sports Therapists who are members of The Society of Sports Therapists are required to meet clearly defined competency levels which cover the breadth of the above areas and gives them the knowledge, skills and ability to work at all levels of the sport and exercise continuum.
- Sport and Exercise Therapy is not just about Sports Massage. However, Sports Therapists will possess massage skills that are an integral part of their scope of practice.
- Sports Therapists are not Physiotherapists, but Sports Therapists will apply “physiotherapy” skills because physiotherapy is defined as “the treatment of disease, injury or deformity by physical methods including massage, heat treatment, electricity and exercise, rather than drugs or surgery”
Consequently, Sports Therapists will apply many skills and modalities that are included within this list but in a sport and exercise perspective rather than a traditional healthcare context.
- Sports Therapists are not just first aiders. More significantly they are first responders who have the training, knowledge, skills and expertise to provide immediate care in a first response role. Members of The Society of Sports Therapists are also required to show evidence that they are up to date with these skills, on an annual basis, in order to renew their membership.
Allied to their sport and exercise science knowledge, therapeutic abilities and understanding of sport, Sports Therapists, and especially Members of The Society of Sports Therapists, are capable and proficient in applying the necessary rehabilitation principles, to enable their patients to achieve the optimum levels of recovery, that their injury or disability will allow. As such, the journey from injury to a return to activities can be facilitated by professionals who have the knowledge, skills and science based principles to meet the needs of a clearly defined patient group. More importantly, Sports Therapists are, and should be, an integral part of the Sports Medicine family, complementing and reinforcing the excellent skills and knowledge also being provided by colleagues and other professions.
Sports Therapy is a distinct occupational title that applies to a clearly defined scope of practice. Furthermore, since 1990, The Society of Sports Therapists has continually striven to ensure that its members are at the forefront of this rapidly increasing profession; academically, professionally, and practically.
Therefore, it is hoped that the above will have now clarified any confusions that there may have been about what a Sports Therapist is and does. Moreover, it is also hoped that it will have dispelled some of the myths about what Sports Therapists do and, more significantly, what they are not!
Finally, as the established, recognised and frequently referred to lead professional body for Sports Therapists in the United Kingdom, The Society of Sports Therapists continues to ensure that both its members and the profession are respected for the distinct scope of practice and science based foundations that are inherent and integral to Sports Therapists and Sports Therapy.
Professor Graham N Smith