Many people are familiar with how physical therapy works, but not so much with sports therapy. Thus, many of them ask, “How does sports therapy work?” Sports Therapy, a branch of healthcare, primarily focuses on injury prevention and restoring patients’ functional, occupational, and sports-specific fitness levels, regardless of age and ability.
By incorporating principles from exercise and sports science, including physiological and pathological processes, Sports Therapy prepares individuals for training, competition, and work when applicable.
How Does Sports Therapy Work?
Sports therapy is a healthcare practice that addresses musculoskeletal disorders via hands-on treatment, patient education, and rehabilitation. This typically involves stretching and muscle-strengthening exercises before and after your workout to enhance body movement, alleviate pain, and enhance patients’ overall quality of life.
Although sports therapy is often compared to physiotherapy, sports therapists are excellently suited for sports-related environments and employ strengthening programs to prevent injuries. They collaborate with professional athletes and individuals seeking support during training, regardless of their skill level or experience. Sports therapists are frequently consulted when athletes plan to return to their sport after an accident or break, assessing their fitness level to determine if they can meet the required standards.
Nonetheless, there still needs to be more clarity regarding the specific roles of sports therapists, how their work varies from physiotherapy, and when sports therapy is necessary.
What Does a Sports Therapist Do?
Both professional and amateur athletes depend on sports therapists to help them achieve peak performance via regular fitness assessments, muscle-strengthening exercises, and excellent warm-up and cool-down routines. Sports therapists collaborate closely with every one of their clients to see and monitor their fitness levels.
There are several key responsibilities involved, such as:
- Prevention: Enhancing performance and preventing injuries using principles derived from sports and exercise.
- Evaluation and assessment: Promptly address sports injuries during training or competitive settings.
- Management, treatment, and referral: Assessing and treating injuries through personalized rehabilitation plans and collaborating with specialists as necessary.
- Rehabilitation: Utilizing sports massages to manipulate soft tissues and muscles, preventing and recovering from injuries.
- Tracking: Monitoring progress during training and the rehabilitation process for injured clients.
What Treatments Can Sports Therapists Provide?
Licensed sports therapists possess the knowledge and skills to administer various treatment modalities, which include the following:
- Soft tissue manipulation
- Gait analysis
- Laser therapy
- Ultrasound therapy
- Sports massage
There is a huge gap between a spa massage and a sports massage. As the therapist manipulates soft tissues to relieve pain, improve muscular function, and avoid injuries, this type of massage focuses on a particular region and can be unpleasant. Runners with tight calves, weightlifters with stiff shoulders, and even athletes with sprains can all benefit from receiving sports massages.
Therapists manipulate your muscles while considering the client’s pain threshold, providing breathing guidance to manage discomfort. Myofascial release is a technique to stretch your fascia, a fibrous connective tissue beneath your skin composed of collagen and elastin. This network supports and surrounds bones, organs, tendons, and muscles, acting like a fabric that holds our bodies together.
Both overworking and underworking muscles can cause unhealthy fascia. During intense training programs, myofascial release helps maintain healthy fascia.
Gait analysis involves using 2D recordings to evaluate a person’s walking and running patterns, identifying potential factors that may inadvertently cause injuries, such as imbalances, posture issues, and abnormal movements. These findings assist in planning effective training routines. In a session, the client will be requested to run for 10 minutes on their treadmill while being videotaped from the back and the side. Therapists use a slow-motion function on these videos to discover any irregularities and advise on how to get back on track safely.
Athletic taping is a specific process of bandaging used to treat and alleviate pain in areas like wrists, shoulders, and ankles. Compression bandages might be applied to reduce swelling after an injury. Taping supports the injured area by physically securing bones and muscles, aiding recovery.
First aid is a skill taught to sports therapists to treat any injuries that may occur during competition or training. This course covers tactics for saving lives, assessing sports injuries, and providing trauma care. It is comprehensive and aimed toward on-the-field delivery, preparing therapists to make snap decisions under pressure.
Conditioning and Strength Exercises
Conditioning and strength exercises enhance speed, flexibility, metabolic capacity, endurance, and power regardless of the sport. These training sessions target the same muscle groups used during games or matches, enabling power development without the threat of injury during practice. Sports therapists design personalized training schedules to effectively target these core muscle groups, making necessary adaptations or adjustments according to the program.
Electrotherapy is a treatment that may be recommended for soft tissue injuries by sports therapists. The treatment depends on the utilization of electric current. TENS, which means transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, is a common way to relieve pain. This method works by stimulating pain nerve fibers that have been inflamed due to damaged tissue. One variation of TENS is called interference therapy, which involves using two alternating medium-frequency currents.
Ultrasound therapy, which uses ultrasonic waves, high-frequency sound waves beyond human hearing, to induce mechanical vibration, is another option for sports therapists. The machine is moved over the skin using soundwaves to deliver a tissue massage. Shock wave therapy is a similar method, except it uses short yet powerful electrically generated waves that exceed the speed of sound.
There are times when sports therapists offer nutritional advice and help develop individualized meal programs. They are well-versed in both macro and micronutrients and have a more in-depth comprehension of the dietary requirements that must be met for a training routine to be effective.
What Does One-on-one Sports Therapy Rehabilitation Involve?
The duties of a Sports Therapist include providing patients with individualized treatment plans for their rehabilitation. To aid a full recovery, it is often important to engage in some resistance training and stretching.
If necessary, the initial phase of the rehabilitation process focuses on addressing any pain, whether it is recent or long-standing. Your Sports Therapist will guide you through the recovery process and recommend suitable exercises for each stage of your healing, which will be adjusted as your pain or discomfort begins to improve.
Is Sports Therapy Similar to Physiotherapy?
Although sports therapists and physiotherapists receive training in similar areas, their approaches differ. Both disciplines cover pre-and post-operative care, musculoskeletal conditions, and various exercise-related or daily-life injuries. However, the main distinction lies in their rehabilitation approaches.
Is There a Difference Between Physiotherapy and Sports Therapy?
Patients are rehabilitated by physiotherapy to improve their ability to function in everyday life. On the other hand, sports therapy concentrates on the patient’s capacity to either return to sports activities or maintain and improve the physical capabilities required for those activities.
Should I Visit a Sports Therapist or a GP for My Injury?
If you have sustained an injury, visiting a GP for a diagnosis is necessary. However, sports therapists are considered “first contact” practitioners who can examine, diagnose, and treat injuries without requiring a referral from a doctor. Also, they can refer you to a different specialist if they believe it is the best action.
If your injury is a direct result of exercise, you can bypass the long wait for a doctor’s appointment and instead consult a sports therapist, the primary contact for musculoskeletal problems. If the injury occurred at a gym, a sports therapist should be available to assess the injury and provide a diagnosis.
We suggest visiting a GP for a more comprehensive examination in cases of severe injuries like fractures or broken bones. Similarly, if a doctor determines that a sports therapist can handle the injury, they might recommend scheduling an appointment.
It is essential to remember that sports therapists do not have the authority to prescribe drugs to their patients. If your injury requires medicine, you should visit a GP.
Is Sports Therapy the Right Choice for Me?
Deciding on the appropriate therapist can be challenging due to overlaps and generalizations. While many physiotherapists specialize in sports rehabilitation, sports therapists utilize techniques and approaches similar to those of physiotherapists. We recommend selecting a therapist based on their expertise and skills relevant to your injury or condition.
What Other Services Can a Sports Therapist Provide?
A sports therapist has the training and experience to provide care and massage to treat injuries and ease discomfort. They can evaluate patients, provide treatment, and develop individualized patient plans. They can improve an individual’s sports performance and assist in their recovery.
Sports therapists often collaborate with physical therapists to develop customized programs tailored to age, activity level, injury location, and other essential physical considerations.
After consulting your general physician (GP) about physical therapy, you should seek assistance from a treatment center that can determine the most suitable program for your needs. Each patient requires a unique program, as no “one size fits all” therapy exists.
At Precision Sports Physical Therapy, our experts will devise a comprehensive rehabilitation plan that suits your requirements. Please contact us today!