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How to Become a Sports Therapist

A sports therapist is a licensed practitioner who treats injured athletes with muscular complaints that affect the back, mobility, posture and more. An injured athlete can go to a sports therapist to restore full-performance ability. Sports therapists also advise athletes on injury prevention. A degree in sports therapy rehabilitation is a science-based curriculum that can take anywhere from two years to become a therapeutic assistant to more than six years for a doctorate degree.

Choose a career focus. Sports therapy has a variety of areas of expertise, including sports massage, exercise science and kinesiology, mind and body, training techniques and sports psychology. Each area has its own course prerequisites.

Earn an undergraduate degree. To treat people with a medical problem, you need a college degree. To become a physical therapist and work one on one with patients, you need an undergraduate degree in a major like biology, chemistry, physics or exercise physiology. Undergraduate programs in sports medicine are often offered as part of an exercise science or kinesiology program.

Get an advanced degree in physical therapy. The American Physical Therapy Association has a list of schools in most states that offer a doctor in physical therapy degree. You will be required to do clinical work and treat patients while under supervision.

Seek accreditation. Accrediting organizations certify professionals in specific specialties who have achieved a certain amount of education and work experience. There are a variety of organizations that award accreditation in sports therapy, including the American College of Sports Medicine, American Council on Exercise and the National Athletic Trainers Association. Each organization has its own requirements for membership.

Tip

Choose a school that has accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. You don’t have to get an advanced doctorate or master’s degree to become a sports therapist. Advancing your education, however, can make a significant difference financially. If you decide to become a sports therapist after you’ve earned a doctorate in a different medical field, you can go to a fellowship program that concentrates on sports medicine.

Warning

Studying sports therapy is much like preparing to become a doctor. Your course load will be heavy in science-based classes. You will need top undergraduate grades to get accepted into a sports therapy doctorate program. If your grades are not up to par, consider going into sports therapy administration or training – careers that allow you to work with clients, but do not involve diagnosing and prescribing treatment.

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About the Author

Shannon Marks started her journalism career in 1994. She was a reporter at the "Beachcomber" in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and contributed to "Philadelphia Weekly." Marks also served as a research editor, reporter and contributing writer at lifestyle, travel and entertainment magazines in New York City. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from Temple University.

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