what's the difference between sports therapy and physiotherapy

What’s the Difference Between Sports Therapy and Physiotherapy?

When it comes to sports-related injuries or rehabilitation, two terms that often come up are sports therapy and physiotherapy. While they both involve the treatment and management of sports injuries, there are distinct differences between the two. In this blog post, we will explore and clarify what’s the difference between sports therapy and physiotherapy, helping you better understand each discipline and their respective roles in sports medicine.

What is Sports Therapy?

Sports therapy is a specialized field of healthcare that focuses on preventing, treating, and rehabilitating injuries related to sports and physical activity. Sports therapists are trained to assess, diagnose, and provide treatment for musculoskeletal conditions and injuries commonly encountered in sports.

Sports therapists typically work with individuals who engage in sports or physical activities at various levels, including professional athletes, weekend warriors, and recreational enthusiasts. They aim to help individuals recover from injuries, improve performance, and prevent future injuries.

The Role of a Sports Therapist

Sports therapists play a crucial role in the management of sports-related injuries. Some key responsibilities of a sports therapist include:

Injury Assessment: Sports therapists conduct thorough assessments to diagnose and identify the nature and extent of an injury. They may use various evaluation techniques, such as physical examinations, range of motion tests, and functional assessments.

Treatment Planning: Based on the assessment findings, sports therapists develop personalized treatment plans tailored to the individual’s needs. These plans may include manual therapy techniques, exercise prescriptions, electrotherapy modalities, and other rehabilitation strategies.

Rehabilitation: Sports therapists guide individuals through the rehabilitation process, focusing on restoring function, mobility, and strength. They may provide hands-on treatments, therapeutic exercises, and advice on injury prevention.

Injury Prevention: Sports therapists educate individuals on injury prevention techniques, such as proper warm-up and cool-down exercises, stretching routines, and correct body mechanics during sports activities.

Sports Performance Enhancement: In addition to injury management, sports therapists also work on improving athletic performance. They may provide training programs specific to an individual’s sport or activity, focusing on strength, flexibility, endurance, and agility.

What is Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapy, also known as physical therapy, is a broader healthcare profession that encompasses assessing, diagnosing, and managing a wide range of musculoskeletal, neurological, and cardiovascular conditions. Physiotherapists are trained healthcare professionals who help individuals restore movement and function affected by injury, illness, or disability.

Physiotherapists work with individuals of all ages and backgrounds, not just athletes. They assist in the management of various conditions like back pain, arthritis, neurological disorders, respiratory conditions, and post-operative rehabilitation.

The Role of a Physiotherapist

Physiotherapists have a diverse range of roles and responsibilities. Some key aspects of a physiotherapist’s role include:

Assessment and Diagnosis: Physiotherapists perform comprehensive assessments to diagnose underlying conditions or impairments that contribute to an individual’s symptoms or limitations. This involves taking a detailed medical history, conducting physical examinations, and reviewing diagnostic reports.

Treatment Planning and Implementation: Based on the assessment findings, physiotherapists develop personalized treatment plans aimed at reducing pain, improving mobility, restoring function, and enhancing overall well-being. Treatment options may include manual therapy techniques, therapeutic exercises, electrotherapy modalities, and education on self-management strategies.

Rehabilitation and Functional Training: Physiotherapists guide individuals through rehabilitation programs tailored to their specific needs. These programs focus on improving strength, flexibility, balance, coordination, and overall functional ability.

Pain Management: Physiotherapists employ various techniques to help manage pain effectively. These may include manual therapy techniques, therapeutic modalities (such as heat or cold therapy), ultrasound, TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), and education on pain management strategies.

Education and Prevention: Physiotherapists educate individuals on self-care techniques, injury prevention strategies, and ergonomics to minimize the risk of future injuries or reoccurrences.

Key Differences Between Sports Therapy and Physiotherapy

While sports therapy and physiotherapy have overlapping areas of focus and share some similarities in their approaches to injury management and rehabilitation, there are several notable differences:

Scope of Practice

Sports therapy primarily focuses on musculoskeletal injuries related to physical activities and sports participation. Physiotherapy has a broader scope that covers a wider range of conditions affecting various body systems.

Target Population

Sports therapists predominantly work with athletes or individuals involved in sports or physical activities. Physiotherapists cater to people from all walks of life, including athletes but also individuals with non-sports-related conditions.

Treatment Setting

Sports therapists often work in sports clubs or specialized sports medicine clinics. Physiotherapists work in various settings like hospitals, private practices, rehabilitation centers, and community health clinics.

Educational Background

Sports therapists typically have a degree specifically in sports therapy or sports rehabilitation. Physiotherapists have a more extensive educational background with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in physiotherapy.

Treatment Approach

While both disciplines utilize similar treatment modalities, such as manual therapy techniques and exercise prescription, sports therapy might emphasize sports-specific training and performance enhancement more than physiotherapy.

Sports Therapist vs Physiotherapist Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for physical therapists (including physiotherapists) in the United States was $89,440 as of May 2020. However, it’s important to note that this figure includes all physiotherapists regardless of specialization.

On the other hand, specific salary data for sports therapists can be more challenging to find due to the lack of standardized reporting. However, based on available industry surveys and job postings, the average annual salary for sports therapists ranges from $40,000 to $70,000.

It’s worth mentioning that these figures are general estimates and can vary depending on factors such as education, experience, location, and industry demand.

Final Words

Sports therapy and physiotherapy are distinct but complementary disciplines within the field of sports medicine. While sports therapy focuses on preventing, treating, and rehabilitating sports-related injuries, specifically in athletes or active individuals, physiotherapy has a broader scope that encompasses a wide range of conditions affecting people from all walks of life.

Understanding the differences between these two disciplines can help individuals make informed decisions when seeking appropriate healthcare for their specific needs. Whether you require injury management as an athlete or rehabilitation for a non-sports-related condition, both sports therapists and physiotherapists play invaluable roles in helping you recover, restore function, and enhance your overall well-being.


Can a sports therapist become a physiotherapist?

While a background in sports therapy can provide a solid foundation of knowledge in anatomy, physiology, and rehabilitation, transitioning from a sports therapist to a physiotherapist typically requires further education and training. Physiotherapy, also known as physical therapy, is a distinct profession with specific academic and clinical requirements. To become a physiotherapist, one typically needs to earn a bachelor’s or master’s degree in physiotherapy from an accredited institution, followed by completing practical clinical experience and passing licensure exams. While sports therapy experience may be beneficial and can contribute to a candidate’s overall skill set, a formal physiotherapy education is essential to ensure proficiency in a broader range of clinical settings and patient populations.


"Hasan", I am a physiotherapy Doctor. I have completed my B.S.c course (4 years) under Rajshahi University, Faculty of Medicine, Rajshahi. Currently I am working as a clinical physiotherapist at a renowned physiotherapy center and I am continuing my MPT (Master's of physiotherapy) degree at CRP, Savar.

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