Sports Therapy on an Athlete in Alexandria, VirginiaPhysical therapy and sports therapy have a lot in common, but they are not the same. While these similar disciplines focus on helping patients improve their physical well-being, they have different end goals and use different approaches to achieve them.

Our sports physical therapists explain the roles and methods of physical therapists and sports therapists, allowing you to choose the right type of treatment for your needs.

Sports Therapy Vs. Physical Therapy: Understanding the Key Differences

Physical therapy focuses on restoring or improving a patient's physical function and mobility. Sports therapy is centered on improving athletic performance and preventing injuries that occur throughout the course of training and gameplay. The main goal of both professions is to help patients get better at their favorite activities.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapists help patients improve their strength, recover from trauma or illness, manage chronic pain, and improve muscle and joint flexibility. The following is a brief overview:

  • Clients. Physical therapists work in hospitals, outpatient clinics, residential nursing facilities, or even travel to patients’ homes. Patients may be referred to PT by a doctor after surgery, an injury, or a disability. Patients might also seek out PT independently to improve their range of motion for daily activities.
  • Education. Physical therapists earn a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) degree and may have additional bachelor’s or master's degrees in exercise-related fields. After completing the academic requirements, they must pass a state licensure exam and participate in ongoing continuing education to stay up-to-date with advances in the field.
  • Treatments. Physical therapists provide manual therapies such as massage, stretching, compression, and strengthening exercises, as well as specialized treatments like electrical stimulation, temperature therapy, or dry needling therapy.

Sports Therapy

Sports therapists are physical therapists that work specifically with athletes to optimize workouts, rehabilitate injuries, and address musculoskeletal concerns that could lead to injury. The primary goal of sports therapy is to help athletes maintain peak physical condition and prevent sport-specific injuries during training and competition. The following is a brief overview:

  • Clients. Sports therapists work specifically with athletes. They may treat individuals or be employed by a specific team or league to maintain optimum performance levels during the season or for particular competitions.
  • Education. Sports physical therapy centers on helping athletes overcome physical limitations or recover from an injury. Since they are a type of physical therapist, they are licensed by the state where they practice and must undergo re-licensing every two years. Sports therapists may have similar educational backgrounds but often have additional training in sports medicine, sports science, or sports management.
  • Treatment. Sports therapists use physical therapy techniques but tailor them to the specific demands of the patient’s game. For example, instead of simply rehabbing a golfer’s shoulder injury, a sports therapist provides strengthening exercises and examines a player’s whole body mechanics to optimize them to play better and longer rounds.

Choosing between sports therapy and physical therapy depends on your individual needs. If you are seriously considering using these services, your best option is to reach out to a professional and have them assess your condition. Our clinic has both kinds of therapists and dedicated personal trainers who can help you improve at each level of injury or fitness. We understand how important it is to make an informed decision when it comes to our overall health and well-being, which is why our dedicated teams of professionals are available to you every step of the way.

The Alexandria physical therapy team at SPARK Physiotherapy includes medical professionals with training in both sports medicine and physical therapy disciplines. Our Northern Virginia physiotherapists are uniquely poised to help patients because we have extensive knowledge of the human body and its movement and experience assisting athletes to excel at baseball, tennis, and personal training.

Dr. Carlos J. Berio
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D.P.T. Doctor of Physical Therapy in Virginia