Colleges with Sports Therapy Degree Programs
Find out about the education and residency requirements for becoming a sports therapist. Learn about licensure for physical therapists and specialized certification in sports therapy.
Where Can I Find a College that Offers a Sports Therapy Degree?
While some trade schools and community colleges offer associate's degree programs in sports and rehabilitation therapy, you'll need to earn a graduate-level physical therapy degree to qualify for state licensure. The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education accredits nearly 200 schools in the U.S. that offer physical therapy programs. Some schools include master's and doctoral physical therapy programs with specializations in sports therapy. After earning a graduate degree, you can pursue further training in sports therapy through a residency program.
How Can I Prepare for a Graduate Program and Residency?
Your first step to working in sports therapy is to earn a bachelor's degree. While you don't need to major in a health-related field, it's recommended that you choose a program that includes the prerequisite science and health courses required by a graduate physical therapy program. Several schools offer undergraduate pre-physical therapy programs that provide the necessary coursework to qualify for graduate study. The courses you could take in a pre-physical therapy bachelor's degree program include biology, physics, exercise science and psychology. If you declare a science-based major, schools recommend that you select liberal arts electives to round out your undergraduate education.
Applying to a physical therapy master's degree or Doctor of Physical Therapy program could be competitive. In addition to prerequisite coursework, you might need experience, such as volunteer work, in physical therapy in order to qualify for a graduate program. After earning a master's or doctoral degree, you can pursue admission to a residency.
What Courses Might I Take?
Your coursework in a physical therapy program generally centers on the study of physiology, human anatomy and kinesiology as well as clinical and therapeutic techniques. You'll also participate in several hours of lab and field practice, which could occur in both indoor and outdoor settings. Common course topics include:
- Musculoskeletal anatomy
- Nutritional science
- Cardiopulmonary systems
- Physical therapy methods
- Brain injuries
Where Can I Take a Residency?
Several university hospitals offer residency programs specifically in sports physical therapy. In a residency, you'll work under the supervision of licensed physical therapists and continue didactic training that covers sports physical therapy topics, such as injury evaluations, biological kinesiology and various rehabilitation treatments. Residencies usually last a year. You might not need to obtain licensure for admission to a residency program, though you typically need to meet licensing qualifications.
Will I Need to Be Licensed or Certified to Practice?
Regardless of where you practice, you'll need state licensure to work as a sports therapist. Requirements for licensure vary by state, but you'll generally need to have completed an accredited degree program and pass one or more exams. The National Physical Therapy Examination, administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy, is used by all states, though you might also need to be tested on your knowledge of state-specific laws and regulations.
The Sports Physical Therapy Section of the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties also offers voluntary certification specific to sports therapy. The requirements to obtain the credential include holding a current license to practice physical therapy in the U.S., having knowledge of emergency response protocols and completing a post-professional clinical residency in sports therapy. You could provide evidence of comparable experience working directly with patients and cooperative research in the field in lieu of formal education (www.abpts.org).