When deciding about a therapist, there can be confusion between athletic therapy and physiotherapy. Although both types of therapists are skilled to heal sports or general injuries, they are not the same. Having a clear idea about the roles and service structure of these therapists will assist you in choosing the right services (or combination thereof) for you.
Physiotherapist: The Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) has defined the physiotherapist as: “...primary health care professionals with a significant role in health promotion and treatment of injury and disease. They combine their in-depth knowledge of the body and how it works with specialized hands-on clinical skills to assess, diagnose and treat symptoms of illness, injury or disability. All physiotherapists registered to practise in Canada are qualified to provide safe and effective physiotherapy.”
Physiotherapy Alberta College and Association (PACA) further explains that “physiotherapists assess, diagnose and treat physical symptoms and limited movement caused by injury, aging, disability, or health condition; help patients understand what’s causing their condition; work with patients to restore, maintain and maximize movement, flexibility and physical independence; develop customized treatment plans that help patients take back control; teach patients how to restore, maintain and/or maximize movement, reduce pain, and manage any chronic symptoms; teach patients how to stay well, avoid future injury and achieve the best quality of life they can.”
Althetic therapist: The Alberta Athletic Therapists Association (AATA) defines athletic therapists as “Certified Athletic Therapists [CAT(C)] are healthcare (clinicians) and paramedical (emergency responders) professionals, with an expertise in musculoskeletal conditions that provide comprehensive and consistent care from injury to safe and full return to activity in all areas of life. Athletic therapists provide pre-hospital medical emergency management, immediate care and reconditioning of musculoskeletal injuries and illnesses, and provide an unbiased, objective perspective to help educate patients (and organizations) on minimizing the risk of further injuries/illnesses. ”
So What's the difference between a Physiotherapist and a Sports Therapist?
- Scope of Training
There is overlap between the two professions with physiotherapy holding a broader scope and both types of practitioners often work together in sport and clinical settings. Physiotherapy requires an undergraduate and master’s degree and includes training in the diagnosis and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiorespiratory conditions in outpatient, community and hospital settings, whereas athletic therapy requires an undergraduate degree and post-graduate certificate and focuses predominantly on musculoskeletal injuries.
- Type of Clients
A physiotherapist deals with all kinds of patients who need rehabilitation after any kind of injury. They have their clients in hospitals, clinics, sports teams and referred from doctors. They have a wide scope of practice. In contrast, athletic therapists work closely with athletes and athletic teams. They are usually present during the training and sports events and manage the injury at once, responding to medical emergencies on the field.
- Preventive services
Both athletic therapists and physiotherapists can be hired by athletes or their teams to help them maintain an optimum level of fitness. Hence, they also provide preventive services and educate their clients about prevention of injuries. Both may be involved in training their clients. Clinical physiotherapists tend to see a heavier caseload of patients who have been injured or are faced with disability, and to rehabilitate patients pre- and post-operatively, whereas athletic therapists have a tend to have a heavier field/gym presence.
- Location of practice: As mentioned above, sports therapists work in close association with teams and usually travel along with during competitions. Sports vicinity is their main area of practice. Physiotherapists practice mostly in their clinics; and health centers like hospitals. Although, both of them are authorized to run their private setups; job locations differ accordingly.