Sports Physical Therapy Degree Programs and Schools

Sports physical therapy is a specialty within the physical therapy field that involves providing therapeutic care to sports professionals, athletes and trainers. Find out the education requirements for a career as a sports physical therapist as well as certification and licensure information. Schools offering Kinesiology & Sport Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What You Need to Know

All sports physical therapists are classified as physical therapists (PT). However, working in this specialty requires completion of additional clinical training beyond that of general physical therapy.

Degrees Doctor of Physical Therapy
Courses Applied exercise physiology, kinesiology, physical therapy in orthopedics, physical therapy in neurological disorders, therapeutic exercise, applied pathology
Licensing Licensure required in all states; completion of an additional competency exam in sports physical therapy required

What Are the Duties of a Sports Physical Therapist?

Sports physical therapists examine, diagnose and treat muscular, nervous and bone complications for athletes. For example, a patient with a torn hamstring or a broken bone might need a physical therapist if his or her movements or lifestyle is hindered by pain or weak body tissue.

What Are the Prerequisites?

Physical therapy programs are usually found at the graduate level and are certified by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (www.capteonline.org). To enter these programs, a minimum level of undergraduate work is needed. Undergraduate degrees that are complementary to future graduate work include those in sports management or physiological fields. Some graduate programs only require three years of an undergraduate education, as long as you also enroll in three years of pre-physical therapy courses.

What Degree Programs Are Available?

After completing an undergraduate degree program, you'll need to complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree program. This program will be the intermediate step to becoming a sports physical therapist, as a doctoral degree is what's required professionally. As of December 31, 2015, the American Physical Therapy Association mandates all physical therapy programs to provide a doctoral degree (www.apta.org).

Are There Further Requirements?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, you must become licensed to work as a physical therapist in your state (www.bls.gov). Each state varies, but the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) is needed to enroll in licensure programs in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (www.fsbpt.org). Successfully passing this exam allows you to work as a physical therapist in your state.

What Are the Certification Options?

Once certified as a general physical therapist, you have two options for becoming a sports therapist. According to the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS), you can complete 2,000 hours of professional work in a sports-related field with 25% of those hours occurring over the last three years or attend a sports residency program accredited by the ABPTS (www.abpts.org). Finally, you must take a written exam that demonstrates your knowledge specifically within sports therapy.

Residency programs in sports physical therapy can be found at hospitals and medical schools such as:

  • University of Florida
  • University of Southern California
  • Duke University
  • Houston Methodist Hospital
  • Johns Hopkins Hospital

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

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  • American University

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