Sport Physiotherapy

What is a Sport Physiotherapist?

A ‘Sport Physiotherapist’ is a Physiotherapist who has completed the Diploma in Sport Physiotherapy through Sport Physiotherapy Canada (a Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association). The Diploma holder has experience in the care of athletes of all levels, be it the high performance national or provincial level athlete, or the everyday active Canadian. The education system of SPC allows the physiotherapist to gain experience and education through courses in areas such as athletic taping, protective equipment, emergency care, concussion management and exercise prescription. Physiotherapists gain valuable field experience towards their Diploma by working closely with experienced therapists in a mentorship program.

In Canada, there are over 350 physiotherapists who have achieved the Certificate level in Sport Physiotherapy, and over 250 physiotherapists who have achieved the Diploma in Sport Physiotherapy. The expertise gained in dealing with sports injuries allows these Physiotherapists to guide the athlete in a safe and efficient manner back to full activity. The training done by these physiotherapists involves over 1600 hours in on-field care in a variety of sports. The examination process overseen by Sport Physiotherapy Canada ensures these physiotherapists have achieved a high standard of care and have expertise in the treatment of sports injuries.

A Sport Physiotherapist has a background in orthopaedics and adds the skills learned during the certificate and diploma training to his/her treatment tools. The skills of athletic taping can be applied not only court side, but more often in the clinical setting. The young soccer player with a sprained ankle will be more comfortable and heal faster when supportive taping is applied at the end of treatment. The same is true for the person who twisted their ankle while putting out the garbage! The Sport Physiotherapist has experience with the Return to Sport or Work or Life aspect of a treatment plan. A carefully planned Progressive Exercise program will allow the athlete or worker or average person to return to activity in a safe manner, reducing the risk of re-injury. A thorough understanding of the symptoms of concussion and its current treatment protocols allows the Sport Physiotherapist to provide proper guidance to not only the athlete that has sustained a concussion in sport but also any person who may have suffered a head injury at work, in a motor vehicle accident or from a fall.

The skills of a Sport Physiotherapist include athletic taping, functional return to sport training, exercise physiology, sport massage, and concussion evaluation and management. The Sport Physiotherapist has the skills and ability to work with sport organizations to help establish a comprehensive medical support system for an organization, whether it is at the grassroots level or the high performance level. Many of the Diploma holders in Sport Physiotherapy have worked with Canada’s top athletes at all levels of sport. Sport Physiotherapists work at local, provincial, national and world championships and join Canada’s Mission Staff at such events as the Commonwealth Games, the Pan American Games, the World University Games and the Olympic Games.

It is important to note that the word ‘trainer’ is used in reference to someone working with a team or sport who provides a variety of support services to the team. The trainer may be a Sport Physiotherapy Canada Certificate or Diploma holder or a physiotherapist or athletic therapist. They may also have no formal medical training other than a first aid certificate and knowledge of the sport. It is important to know the qualifications of potential medical staff prior to engaging their services. Physiotherapists are licensed through provincial colleges and SPC qualified physiotherapists can be found through its website.