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  • What is a sports physiotherapist?

    Author: Karen Keast

Sports physios work to assist sports players and professional athletes to perform at their best. Why not consider specialising in physiotherapy as a sports physio?

In this specialised branch of physiotherapy, sports physios provide advice on how to avoid sports injuries, treat injuries and help recovery for those playing recreational sport right through to elite sport.

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Sports physios typically work in private practice in primary health care, in consultancy practices, and can also work with sporting teams and organisations.

How do you become a sports physio?

A sports physio is a registered physiotherapist who has achieved further study after completing a physiotherapy degree - in which students achieve an understanding of the physical, structural and the physiological aspects of human form and movement.


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To become a sports physio, you will first need to complete a four-year Bachelor degree in physiotherapy.

Alternatively, you can complete an associated Bachelor degree, such as in exercise physiology, followed by a postgraduate qualification in physiotherapy.

Physiotherapists can later choose to practice in sports physiotherapy but are unable to refer to themselves as a sports physio until they have achieved titled membership of the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA).

The APA title is a professional mark of distinction that recognises highly qualified members with advanced expertise and experience in their area of practice.

Physiotherapists can either apply to pursue an academic pathway or an experiential pathway to achieve a sports physio title.

The academic route requires physios to complete an APA-approved Masters course, at least two years’ full-time equivalent clinical experience in physiotherapy, showing evidence of working in the relevant field, as well as current APA membership of the relevant national group.

The experiential pathway is a two-stage process with the first stage requiring physios to achieve at least five years’ full-time equivalent clinical or practical experience with evidence of at least three years’ in the relevant practice area.

They must also hold current APA membership of a relevant national group, and show evidence of having engaged in a range of educational programs to improve their knowledge in the relevant field.

The second stage of the process involves a written exam/portfolio and a practical exam.

Jennifer Dodge is a physiotherapist and APA member working in the sports setting who is also progressing through the experiential pathway of the titling process.

Ms Dodge achieved her Bachelor of Physiotherapy at the University of Newcastle and joined Sydney’s Stadium Sports Physiotherapy private practice in 2013.

Outside of private practice, Ms Dodge has gained experience working on the field, firstly as a sports trainer, after achieving her sports trainer certificate with Sports Medicine Australia.

“I was in my first year of university and that allowed me to be on field and look after football teams for weekend sports, and I did that when I was studying,” she says.

“I was able to be exposed to sports injuries right off the bat - it’s that basic first aid, it’s the sports fracture injury management.

“You get your foot in the door that way and it’s really important - a lot of clubs will like you and want to keep you on and you tend to remain with a club or team,” she says.

“I think it’s really imperative just to be exposed to that early on and get that experience under your belt because that’s what will get your foot in the door with clubs.

“It also makes you well equipped for working as a physio, even in the more controlled private practice setting.”

With a competitive sporting background in surfing and athletics, Ms Dodge has been heavily involved in sports physiotherapy.

Ms Dodge has worked with the New York Knicks NBA, Harvard University Track and Field, the Massachusetts General Hospital Sports Medicine Centre, the American Ballet Theatre Company, as well as with the Sydney Swans AFL team and the Australian kayak team.

“It’s put me forward on more of an international front, I’ve been able to go over to the States and volunteer my time over there with some of the elite national teams,” she says.

“The pressure does change - when you are working at that high level you will think back to the times when you have watched teams like this on TV and now you’re standing alongside them, walking out on field with them.

“It’s a good feeling, it’s very humbling because you know you are making a difference and you’re as vital to the team as any other staff member - you’re ultimately keeping those players on the field or getting them back as soon as possible.

“It’s just that satisfaction in knowing that you do make a difference.”

Sports Physiotherapist Salary

The salary range for sports physios can vary greatly depending on their level of experience and practice setting. A titled sports physio working in private practice can earn between $80,000 to $110,000 per year while sports physios can also earn additional income in roles with sporting clubs and teams.

Sports physios involved in high level sporting teams can earn between $110,000 and $150,000 a year.

Rewards and challenges

Ms Dodge says it takes hard work and commitment to work in the sports physiotherapy area, including often volunteering your time at sporting clubs when you first move into working in sports, while the work is also physically demanding.

“I do get pretty worn out when it’s the real heavy duty hands-on work,” she says.

“During the season, say for example AFL, you are working seven days so you don’t get weekends at all.

“You are massaging - you are treating the night before a game, two hours before a game and two hours after a game, as well as working the game, so it can be very taxing on your body.

“It can be quite fatiguing just with the travel as well - you really are a part of that team and every move and step they take, you are right there with them.”

Despite the challenges, Ms Dodge says working as a physiotherapist in the sports setting is an incredibly rewarding profession and career path to becoming a sports physio.

“It’s a fast-paced environment,” she says.

“I love the immediacy of your diagnosis and treatment - seeing results and seeing players get back on the field or getting their appreciation from your treatment because they want to get better as much as you want them to get better.

“It’s quite a rewarding role.”


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords