Sports Massage Therapist: Job Description, Requirements & Training Info

Sep 15, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a sports massage therapist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

Sports massage therapists are massage therapists with a special knowledge of sports injuries, physical activity, and how massage can improve movement and activity. They may complete a professional massage therapy program before pursuing certification, although there are options for undergraduate study in sports massage specifically.

Essential Information

Sports massage therapists use touch to massage and treat muscles that are sore as a result of a sports-related injury. After completion of a training or degree program in sports massage therapy, such professionals are required to be certified and licensed by the state in which they practice. Many also join a professional association before seeking employment.

Required Education Completion of an accredited training program in sports massage therapy or associate's degree in sports and rehabilitation therapy
Other Requirements The majority of states require the licensure and/or certification of massage therapists; many employers require certification through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 22% for all massage therapists*
Mean Salary (2018) $41,420 for all massage therapists*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for a Sports Massage Therapist

Sports massage therapists are massage therapists who concentrate on sports rehabilitation techniques. Through their educational programs, they have developed an understanding about the therapeutic care of sports-related injuries that inhibit physical activity. This allows them to determine what massage techniques to use for different injuries. Typically, sports massage therapists work in sports medicine facilities or hospitals.

Requirements to Become a Sports Massage Therapist

Each state has its own requirements and licensure mandates for sports massage therapists. Before enrolling in a sports massage therapist program, a candidate should be sure to research the requirements for the state where he or she wishes to practice.

Educational Requirements

First, a high school diploma or its equivalent is needed to enroll in a massage therapy program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these programs require around 500 hours or more of study and teach the students about anatomy, kinesiology, ethics and related areas. The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) accredits massage schools that maintain a level of quality and integrity based on its standards.

Some colleges and universities also offer associate's degree programs in sports and rehabilitation therapy. In these programs, the student learns to assess and treat a variety of sports-related injuries. Most programs require students to take core courses in human anatomy and physiology, and programs may require students to complete first aid and CPR training. Massage therapy courses include deep tissue therapy, pathology, Swedish massage and sports massage.

Licensing Requirements

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in 2012 that 44 states and the District of Columbia had laws regulating the practice of massage therapy. Sports massage therapists must research state requirements and, if necessary, earn licensure and become a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) by following state-issued mandates.

Training Information for a Sports Massage Therapist

Most employers require sports massage therapists to be certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). To earn NCBTMB certification, a candidate must complete a minimum of 500 hours of massage therapy instruction and pass a standardized examination demonstrating superior ability. Those who are NCBTMB-certified must recertify every four years by logging 48 continuing education hours and 200 working hours.

After certification, a sports massage therapist has the option of joining the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). This membership allows sports massage therapists to network with potential employers and pursue continuing education. Membership in the AMTA also helps massage therapists to obtain liability insurance, which may be required by prospective employers.

The job outlook for massage therapists is good, employment opportunities were expected to grow much faster than the national average through 2028. However, this estimate takes into account all types of massage therapists, not just those who specialize in sports massage. Massage therapists working in psychiatric and substance abuse hospitals earned more than the overall average, with a mean annual wage of $84,180.

Sports massage therapists have a special knowledge of athletic and/or active bodies and the physical needs of sports or sports injuries. Certification and licensure differ by state, and aspiring sports massage therapists need to look up requirements in their own place of residence before pursuing education, or while looking to maintain their certification. Continuing education is often necessary.

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