Sports therapists are responsible for helping athletes get back in the game following an injury. The work can be stressful, particularly when dealing with the expectations of the athlete, family, manager and coach. However, the financial compensation is favorable, especially if you find work with a professional sports franchise.
A sports therapist helps clients who may be professional or amateur athletes return to peak physical fitness after becoming injured. Clients may represent a variety of ages, sports and abilities. Sports therapists offer advice on injury prevention and if injuries occur, they treat them and assist with rehabilitation. In addition, sports therapists help their clients cope with the trauma that may result from a severe sports injury.
A sports therapist is usually a member of a broader team of trainers, managers and doctors. Some find work with one professional sports organization, while others cater to a variety of clients part-time, such as those with a gym membership. In either case, travel is a key component of the job, as is 24/7 availability.
Prospective sports therapists must first acquire a degree from an accredited physical therapy program; then they make take the examination for national licensure, which is necessary to practice in the United States. Some education programs offer the doctor of physical therapy degree, and most combine classroom instruction with laboratory teaching to make for a supervised clinical education. Coursework generally includes the basic sciences such as biology, chemistry and physics, as well as specialized classes in kinesiology, human growth and anatomy, exercise physiology and pathophysiology. It is generally recommended to volunteer in a physical therapy office or hospital before applying to such a program.
As of July 2009, the average salary of a sports therapist in the United States is $74,000, though this number varies according to experience, location and employer. The entry-level salary for a sports therapist working at a gym or university setting is typically around $51,900, while those with more than a decade of experience earn upwards of $82,700. Sports therapists working for a Major League Baseball team or as part of the NFL or NBA may earn salaries reaching six figures.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects employment opportunities for sports therapists will grow at 27 percent through 2016. The sports industry continues to grow at a significant rate, and teams need qualified professionals to see to the health of their high-profile, expensive athletes.