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Sports Medicine Therapist: Job Description, Duties and Requirements

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

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A sports medicine therapist is a type of physical therapist who works with doctors to rehabilitate sports-related injuries. After meeting the education and licensure requirements, candidates are equipped to enter a field forecast to expand rapidly over the next several years.

Essential Information

Sports medicine therapists are physical therapists who specialize in the treatment and rehabilitation of sport and athletic injuries. These therapists typically have completed graduate-level education in treating and rehabilitating injured athletes. Sports medicine therapists are state-licensed professionals and generally work in clinics, hospitals, or other health care institutions.

Required Education Master's degree in sports medicine, physical therapy, or athletic training
Certification/Licensure Mandatory physical therapy licensure, optional Sports Therapy Certification through the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 34% for all physical therapists*
Average Annual Salary (2015) $85,790 for all physical therapists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Description for a Sports Medicine Therapist

Sports medicine therapy is a discipline within the health and rehabilitation sciences. Sports medicine therapists are trained in anatomy and physiology, nutrition, exercise science, and rehabilitative techniques as they relate to athletics.

Job Duties of a Sports Medicine Therapist

Sports medicine therapists work with athletes and physicians to develop rehabilitation plans. They then work one-on-one with the athlete, executing and overseeing therapeutic techniques and ensuring that the rehabilitation plan stays on course. Sports medicine therapists generally use various special equipment and a number of treatment modalities, such as electrical muscle stimulation, to build athletes' strength and flexibility and promote healing.

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Job Requirements for a Sports Medicine Therapist

A master's degree in sports medicine, physical therapy, or athletic training is a common educational requirement for a career in sports medicine therapy. Additionally, sports medicine therapists must be licensed as physical therapists in the state where they intend to practice. State licensure requirements for physical therapists vary, but generally include graduation from a degree program that's been accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and passage of the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), which is overseen by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). Some states require an additional jurisprudence examination that tests aspiring physical therapists on relevant state laws and regulations.

Certification Information

Voluntary certification for sports medicine therapists is available through the North American Sports Medicine Institute (NASMI) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). NASMI offers Sports Therapy Certification (STC) to those who complete a series of continuing education courses and a certification class. ACSM provides various credentials in health fitness, clinical professions and various specialties. Requirements for these certifications vary.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide salary and career information specific to sports medicine therapists, it does indicate that the employment of physical therapists as a whole, including those who specialize in sports medicine, should grow by about 34% between 2014 and 2024. This represents much faster than average employment growth compared to all occupations. The BLS reported that the average annual salary earned by all types of physical therapists totaled $85,790 in May 2015.

Sports medicine therapists are typically required to have a master's degree in physical therapy or sports therapy, and be licensed physical therapists in their state. State licensure typically requires graduating from an accredited program, and passing at least one exam. Once practicing, sports medicine therapists implement knowledge of different therapeutic machines and therapy programs to help athletes recover.

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