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Physical therapists play a critical role in the field of sports medicine, helping athletes recover from injuries, prevent further injuries, and optimize their performance. Physical therapists specialized in sports bring unique expertise and specialized knowledge to help athletes at all levels, from recreational to professional, achieve their goals and excel in their sports.

Sports physical therapists undergo additional training and certification to specifically address the unique needs of athletes. They possess in-depth knowledge of anatomy, biomechanics, and sports-specific movements, as well as a thorough understanding of the demands and stresses that sports place on the body. 

They use evidence-based techniques and interventions to assess, treat, and manage various musculoskeletal conditions and injuries that are commonly encountered in sports, such as sprains, strains, fractures, ligament injuries, and overuse injuries.

What do sports physical therapists do?

Sports physical therapists work closely with athletes to develop customized treatment plans that may include manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, neuromuscular retraining, modalities like heat or cold therapy, and other interventions to optimize performance and promote recovery. 

They also provide education on injury prevention, sports-specific conditioning, and performance enhancement strategies. Sports physical therapists may work in various settings, including sports clinics, fitness centers, athletic training facilities, and with sports teams or organizations.

What are the goals of sports physical therapy?

The goal of sports physical therapy is to help athletes return to their pre-injury level of function and performance as quickly and safely as possible, while also preventing further injury. Sports physical therapists work closely with coaches, trainers, and other healthcare professionals to develop individualized treatment plans that address each athlete’s specific needs and goals.

How to become a sports physical therapist?

To become a sports physical therapist, you typically need to complete a Bachelor’s degree in a related field, such as exercise science or sports medicine, and then enroll in and complete a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program, which usually takes three years. DPT programs provide comprehensive education and training in various areas of physical therapy, including sports-related conditions. 

After graduating from a DPT program, you may need to obtain state licensure by passing the National Physical Therapy Exam and fulfilling any other requirements set by your state. Some sports physical therapists also choose to pursue additional certifications, such as the Sports Certified Specialist (SCS) designation, which demonstrates expertise in sports physical therapy. Continuing education and professional development are also important for sports physical therapists to stay up-to-date with the latest research and advancements in the field.

Where to find sports physical therapists?

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1. Select Physical Therapy

Select Physical Therapy is a leader in physical therapy excellence, being part of the largest physical therapy network in the United States. With almost 2,000 outpatient physical therapy centers and over 7,000 licensed therapists, they provide exceptional care to patients nationwide.

Their nationally recognized sports medicine program, Select Sports, is designed for people of all levels of athletic ability. They partner with specialists to develop personalized treatment plans for athletes with sport-related injuries such as ACL tears, concussions, and shin splints. Thousands of athletes are treated at their centers nationwide, with the goal of helping them return to their activities and achieve their individual goals.

2. Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO)

Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO) is a leading sports physical therapy center that specializes in addressing the unique needs of athletes. Their experienced physical therapists understand biomechanics and have expertise in rehabilitating athletes at all levels, helping them reduce the risk of re-injury and come back stronger. 

TCO offers specialized programs for various sports, including basketball, golf, hockey, Olympic lifting/high-intensity training, performing arts, running, soccer, and yoga/Pilates. They also have a comprehensive return-to-performance program called ACE, which is tailored to each athlete’s needs following an injury, whether it’s operative or non-operative. They also have expertise in managing sport-related concussions (SRC) and offer Testing for Return to Athletic Competition (TRAC) to monitor rehabilitation progress.

3. Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation

Blue Hills Sports & Spine Rehabilitation is a specialized clinic that offers evidence-based approaches tailored to individual injuries. With specialty services in Orthopedics, Sports Therapy, Spine programs, and Vestibular Rehabilitation, the clinic has physical therapists with years of experience in managing sports-related injuries using cutting-edge, evidence-based care. 

They understand that athletic injury recovery goals are different from traditional injury recovery goals, and they work with an athlete’s entire support system to ensure the quickest and safest return to their sport. The clinic also offers affordable self-pay options for athletes who need to return to peak performance, but whose insurance coverage may be limited.

With a focus on understanding the unique needs of athletes, the above-mentioned and other sports physical therapy centers play a crucial role in supporting athletes’ health, well-being, and performance on and off the field.


What is the difference between physical therapy and sports therapy?

Physical therapy is a broader term that encompasses a wide range of conditions and injuries, while sports therapy is a specialized form of physical therapy that focuses specifically on sports-related injuries and performance enhancement for athletes.

What do sports physical therapists treat?

Some common conditions and injuries that sports physical therapy professionals may treat include sprains and strains, fractures, dislocations, tendonitis, concussions, and overuse injuries. They may also provide guidance on injury prevention, sports performance optimization, and proper nutrition and hydration.

Who can benefit from sports physical therapy?

Sports medicine professionals work with athletes of all levels, from amateur to professional, as well as individuals who are physically active in other ways, such as dancers, gymnasts, and runners. They may also work with non-athletes who have suffered injuries or conditions related to physical activity, such as back pain or repetitive strain injuries.

How can sports physical therapists optimize sports performance?

Sports physical therapists may provide guidance on sports-specific training and conditioning to help athletes improve their physical performance. 
Overall, physical therapy in sports is a valuable tool for athletes who want to improve their performance, recover from injuries, and maintain their physical health and well-being. It can help athletes of all levels stay healthy, active, and competitive in their chosen sport.

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  4. Best Sports Physical Therapists in Boston
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