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Sports Physical Therapist Assistants: Requirements and Career Info

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

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Physical therapy assistants are required to have an associate's degree from a program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education and they must also be licensed. There is no specific specialization process for those interested in focusing with sports injuries; those interested in working in this field should seek employment with a sports physical therapist.

Essential Information

Sports physical therapist assistants help physical therapists with the treatment of individuals who have limited mobility. Physical therapist assistants specialize in sports physical therapy through on-the-job training. Licenses are obtained after graduating from a program that is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam.

Required Education Associate's degree from a CAPTE-accredited program
Other Requirements Licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 41% (for all physical therapist assistants)
Average Salary (2015)* $55,250 (for all physical therapist assistants)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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Physical Therapy Assistants

Requirements

There is no credential that qualifies a physical therapy assistant to work specifically in sports. Nearly all states require physical therapy assistants--not to be confused with aides--to be licensed. Licensure generally involves graduation from a degree program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and passing the National Physical Therapy Exam. CAPTE-approved programs are typically two years in length and culminate in an associate's degree.

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) only recognizes physical therapy assistants with specialized knowledge in pediatric, integument, cardiopulmonary, geriatric, musculoskeletal and neuromuscular care. For additional concentration efforts in the field of sports physical therapy, they should seek employment with a sports physical therapist (more information on this below).

Career Info

According to the APTA, physical therapy assistants provide treatment assistance to patients with limited mobility under the guidance of a license physical therapist. Assistants provide exercise assistance, balance training, massages and mechanical traction. The BLS states that the mean annual salary for all physical therapy assistants was $55,250 as of 2015. Employment for physical therapy assistants is expected to grow 41% between 2014 and 2024, also per the BLS.

Sports Physical Therapists

Requirements

According to the BLS, all states have unique policies defining who can practice physical therapy. The majority stipulates that students must complete an APTA-approved graduate program. These may be master's or doctoral degree programs ranging in length from 2-3 years.

A licensed physical therapist with a few years of documented practice can consider a obtaining a sports specialization certification. Offered by the Sports Physical Therapy Section (SPTS) of the APTA, this written exam tests knowledge in specialized areas of sports injury prevention and rehabilitation. The sports certification is voluntary, but helps students to more easily secure opportunities in athletic physical therapy.

Career Info

With the help of physical therapy assistants, sports physical therapists deal with physically active individuals to provide a variety of services. Evaluation, treatment and prevention methods are used to address injuries in a way that athletic individuals can avoid damage or to quickly return to full function following injury. Sports physical therapists also analyze athletes to identify deficiencies in their abilities, prescribing training regimens to address issues such as flexibility, nutrition or endurance.

Jobs for physical therapists were predicted to expand 34% from 2014-2024, according to the BLS. Mean annual salaries for physical therapists were $85,790, according to 2015 data from the BLS.

Physical therapy assistants work with physical therapists to provide treatment to patients who have limited mobility. They may assist the patient with exercises and balance training. To focus in the area of sports physical therapy, they should seek employment with a physical therapist who specializes in that area.

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