Sports Therapy vs Physiotherapy

A common cause of confusion amongst people I talk to is the difference between Sports Therapy and Physiotherapy. Often people will refer to me as a Physio and I have to explain that there is a difference between a Physiotherapist and a Sports Therapist. Some of the differences are clear cut, others not so.

What is a Sports Therapist?Treatment procedure

As the name suggests, Sports Therapists specialise in treating sports injuries. They also treat issues caused by lifestyle and occupational problems such as poor posture, movement and mobility skills. In treating these issues, Sports Therapists have the knowledge, skills and ability to:

  • Assess and diagnose injuries
  • Treat injuries through manual therapy, exercise, and by implementing rehabilitation programmes
  • Use sports and exercise principles to optimise performance and prevent injury
  • Educate clients on injury and performance issues

But isn’t that what a Physio does?

Where it gets confusing is that Physiotherapists can also have the same skills. If you only see a Physiotherapist to treat your sports injury, it’s easy to miss out on the fact that Physiotherapy has a broader scope of practice than Sports Therapy. Physio training is more medically based and they are trained to deal with a wider range of (often more serious) issues.

Issues Physiotherapists are equipped to deal with include

  • cystic fibrosis
  • stroke
  • Parkinson’s
  • chronic asthma
  • severe physical or neurological disability
  • recovery from cardiac surgery

A large part of the work of a Physiotherapist is dealing with people who are unable to lead a normal, healthy life, with the aim of restoring quality of life to these patients. In contrast, Sports Therapists are more likely to be working with people who are injured or in pain, but otherwise well and healthy.Sports therapy vs Physiotherapy

So which do I choose to go and see?

While Physiotherapy covers a much wider area of treatment, Sports Therapists take that one area of sports based injury and specialise in it 100%. Most Sports Therapists are deeply involved in sporting environments themselves. Their training is focused solely on the sporting environment and they understand what it is to be an athlete.  There are however many Physiotherapists that specialise in sports injury.

As for who you should go and see, this is down to personal preference. If you have a sports injury or other musculoskeletal pain, both Sports Therapists and Physiotherapists are equipped to deal with your issues. I would therefore recommend that you should choose your practitioner based on issues that matter to you. Personal recommendations and a bit of research into what they specialise in, and the general approach to their work are often the best place to start.