• Aidan Streat

The difference between a Physiotherapist and Sports Rehabilitator

In this blog I will try and explain the on-going discussion among practitioners and clients, also help explain how each role differs. The main point to address within this blog is for you, the reader, to gain and understanding of which practitioner you should see, as well as help address which profession can offer the best services for any given injury.

Both Specialities (Physiotherapist and Sports Rehabilitator) are qualified, educated, insured and governed to practice through legitimate organisations called the CSP and BASRaT:

  • CSP - The chartered society of physiotherapy

  • BASRaT – British association of sports Rehabilitators

The governing bodies regulate that any practitioner with these titles has been cleared to treat individuals, whilst having sufficient training, education and the correct insurance. IF YOU’RE UNSURE, ask your practitioner and they can show you their registration number to prove their legitimacy, which can give you piece of mind knowing the practitioner is appropriately trained and qualified. Both websites posted below can confirm this information, don’t hesitate to ask, be confident going into your treatment that you are in safe hands. Your safety and well-being should be the practitioner’s foremost interest, I know it’s mine :).

What is Sport Rehabilitation?

Sport Rehabilitators assess and treat individuals suffering from pain, injury and/or illness within the musculoskeletal (MSK) system. The MSK system comprises of many tissues and structures including: bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments among other elements that provide form, supports, stability and movement within the human body. The practitioner has the ability to helping individuals of all ages to recover, maintain and develop health and fitness. By treating injuries, illnesses and help individuals improve movement within daily functionality or exercise.

What is Physiotherapy?

Physiotherapists similarly do the same but for a broader range of illness and disabilities that venture outside of the MSK system, including:

  • Neurological (stroke, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's)

  • Cardiovascular (chronic heart disease, rehabilitation after heart attack)

  • Respiratory (asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cystic fibrosis).

The Similarities

Both professions are highly educated and skilled with musculoskeletal disorders, able to identify and treat injury. Both focus on restoring, maintaining and refining movement, whilst relieving pain and improving quality of life. Both practitioners possess the skills to:

  • Assess and diagnose a multitude of MSK injuries

  • Improve quality of life

  • Implement personalised rehab programmes

  • Treat and educate individuals to reduce pain, manage chronic injuries and bad habits

The key differences

As we have highlighted above both share many similarities in skills and qualities post qualification. Where they differ:

  • Physiotherapists - have a broader knowledge of various medical illness and diseases. Think of them being like a GP, they have a multitude of skills for medical issues including respiratory, generative and neurological. The physiotherapist will specialise in conditions that can be found in hospitals, for instance: Stroke, Parkinson’s, cystic fibrosis, etc.

  • Sports Rehabilitators - specialise themselves in neuromusculoskeletal (which means a deep understanding of joints, muscles and tissues around the body) disorders. They treat pain and injury to help regain movement or return you to exercise.

The list can go on. However, I hope this has given you a better understanding of the two professions. BEAR in mind, this is a generalisation and immediately post education. Most practitioners will specialise or educate themselves further so they can broaden their knowledge or gain additional skills in a particular field. The best thing to do is to ask the practitioner what their qualifications are or what they specialise in. I recommend you choose your practitioner on their specialities and/or qualifications.

The take home message

I want to help you the reader to understand the importance and interchangeable word in every day life which is ‘Physio’, if you’re looking to treat an MSK or movement related injuries both Sports Rehabilitators and Physiotherapists are equally trained. However, check with the individual practitioner on their specific qualifications and experience, know what type of practitioner you need to see for your injury and don’t be afraid to ask. Look at what practitioners are in your area or who are recommended by friends or colleagues, if they only state rehab or therapy then normally this means they are similarly qualified to physiotherapists for MSK injuries. Again, it depends on what speciality and experience they have. Don’t be afraid to ask!

Happy rehabbing,

REFORM Performance Clinic

The research

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