Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between Sports Therapy and Physiotherapy?

Here is an overview and comparison of these two professions as viewed within the United Kingdom. The scope of practice will often vary according to the country and their regulations. Please also consider that educational standards and their regulation are constantly evolving and therefore subject to change.

Sports Therapy
is currently unregulated in the UK, although it is generally accepted that training should be at a minimum of University Undergraduate Level - see FAQ above. The remit of sports therapist may be described as having the requisite knowledge and skills to help individuals and teams progress from being able to perform normal daily physical functions to more complex activities involved in sport. This will involve practitioners having a comprehensive understanding of human anatomy, physiology, biomechanics, healing, exercise, nutrition, the effects of exercise, and being able to form an appropriate treatment plan utilising a range of interventions for the promotion of healing and/or athletic performance.

Physiotherapy has a broader scope of practice addressing the needs of a much wider population and range of conditions which are not solely related to increased physical activity. These may include degenerative and medical disorders with the remit of helping individuals return to being able to perform normal daily functions/activities. Training will include medicine and a wider range of manual therapy interventions, although with much less reliance on soft tissue therapy. A full undergraduate programme normally lasts for 4 years and includes field practice in an NHS environment for 12 months. Physiotherapy is nationally regulated in the UK and therefore only those successfully completing minimum training to University Undergraduate level via an approved programme are eligible to practice using the title Physiotherapist. There is consistently strong demand to enter this profession and therefore both the academic standards and numbers of applicants are high.

What is the difference between Sports Therapy and Sports Massage Therapy?

Sports Massage Therapy encompasses the scientific knowledge and manual therapy skills relating to specific soft tissues, their functions, the effects of manual therapy and exercise on normal, and damaged tissue. The main soft tissues include muscles, fascia, tendons, and ligaments. Level 3 courses address the prevention of injury and performance enhancement, whilst Level 4 includes conditions and injuries commonly suffered in sport or high activity, plus a range of interventions aimed at promoting repair and recovery. 


Sports Therapy entails a higher level of training that includes a wider set of skills and supporting knowledge. There is general agreement within the UK of some core areas which are essential to sports thereapy although the emphasis will vary amongst training providers with some favouring soft tissue therapy and others leaning towards rehabilitation or emergency care. It is widely accepted that sports therapy includes: 

 

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Sports massage
  • Ethics and Professionalism
  • Biomechanics
  • Advanced Manual Therapy Skills
  • Injury assessment and treatment
  • Gait analysis
  • Rehabilitation from injury
  • First Aid and advanced trauma care
  • Taping for Sport
  • Other areas sometimes included are Electrotherapy, Strength & Conditioning, and/or Sports Nutrition.

 

The general area a sports therapist will work in is to help individuals and teams progress from being able to perform normal daily physical functions to sporting and highly skilled activities.

 

From the mid 1990's onwards, there was a collective effort to establish sports therapy as a 'regulated' profession with protected title through the Health Professions Council (HPC). 'Protected title' would mean that only those who had demonstrated achieving the required standards being allowed to practice under the chosen title; in this case Sports Therapy. The agreement by all those with an interest in this area was that the minimum educational standard to practice in this field would be University Undergraduate level. However, more recently the HPC have restricted applications to those professions where there is deemed to be a risk to the general public. Sports Therapy was not considered to pose any risks and will therefore not be put forward to the HPC unless there is a change in policy in the future. This is not foreseeable at the present time.

 

Therefore Sports Therapy is currently not regulated although there are membership organisations who continue to promote sports therapy through University programmes. Although these organisations may be highly regarded, they are memberhip rather than recognised educational bodies. This leaves the title of Sports Therapist being one which remains unclear with many Sports Massage and/or Soft Tissue Therapists continuing their training and experience to a level where the service they offer may be regarded under the heading of Sports Therapy.

 

Which course should I start with?

You must begin with the Certificate course in Sports Massage which leads to a nationally recognised VTCT Level 3 qualification. This will give you excellent skills that may be used to provide a service to all clients, whether they are fully fit, or returning to sport.

You may then progress adopting our flexible award programme which will allow you to train towards our Level 4 Diploma, and even to Advanced Practitioner Level 5, each course providing comprehensive training to expand your range of knowledge and skills, enhancing the expertise for your clients.

How much time should I allow between enrolling and attending my practical training?

The estimated study hours required for each course and the minimum needed to attend your practical training are indicated with each course. Some require little pre-course study if you are already qualified from earlier courses.

What sort of people will be my clients when I qualify?

Sports therapists do not just deal with fit athletes. There is a vast range within the population who will require your services. Anyone; however active, however fit, whatever age, and whatever activity, may benefit from sports therapy. They may be musicians, sports people, gardeners, manual workers, dancers, and many others who simply engage in physical exertion of one sort or another.

Where will I work?

Although sports therapy has rapidly gained recognition and acceptance in the UK since the early 1990's, there are relatively few full-time employed positions available. However, more part-time paid opportunities exist with sports clubs, as well as injury clinics where you may work alongside other healthcare practitioners. Most graduates will build practices from different locations, often combining employed and self-employed work. During the practical training for our courses we tackle how to promote start yourself professionally and develop your business.

What other costs can I expect to get started?

The main start-up costs for a sports therapist are for your couch and accessories. Currently you should budget about £330 to purchase a good portable couch, carry case, towelling cover and massage oils.

Do I still need to sit an Anatomy & Physiology exam if I have already?

If you are enrolling on our Level 3 Sports Massage course, you will be required to take the VTCT Anatomy & Physiology Unit as well. However, if you already have a VTCT or equivalent 'standalone' qualification you may apply for Recognised Prior Learning (RPL) and thereby be exempt.

 

VTCT advise that applications for RPL will only be eligible for students who have a current VTCT Level 3 Anatomy & Physiology certificate, or equivalent qualification. This must be an independent award and not form part of another qualification, such as personal training, or similar. A current qualification is one that is generally regarded as having been gained in the last three years.

 

If you have a qualification but are not sure whether you will be eligible for RPL, please ask and we will be happy to help.

Do I need to buy other text books for your courses?

No, all necessary study material including text books and course notes are provided within your course fees.

Will I get support after I have qualified?

Yes Sports Therapy UK will always provide information and support for it's graduate members and we encourage members to contact and support each other through our national register.

What happens if I fail a part of a course?

We encourage you to retake whatever assessment or examination again and will provide any necessary assistance or guidance. Our aim is to help you exceed the standards we set, not hinder you. The cost of exams and assessments are included in your course fees, although a small charge will be made for any further attempts.

Are there additional fees payable to those shown?

The course fees are clearly set out and include examination and assessment fees. However, if you should have to resit an examination, additional fees become payable and these are shown on the exam application form. Course textbooks are provided although newcomers to sports therapy will need to purchase a couch, towelling cover and massage oil/lotion.

Who are the recognised Awarding Bodies for qualifications in sports massage in the UK?

VTCT has launched two brand new certificates - Level 3 and Level 4 in Sports Massage Therapy and both have been endorsed by the Sports Massage Association (SMA). The qualifications will appear on the new Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF), and have been approved by SkillsActive, the sector skills council for active leisure and learning, as well as Ofqual, the new regulators of qualifications, tests and examinations in England. In the Level 3 Certificate, candidates will develop their knowledge and understanding of the theory underpinning the practice of sports massage therapy, including functional anatomy and physiology, nutrition, classification of sports injuries and the stages of healing. It will also provide the skills and techniques to plan, prepare and apply sports massage methods.

 

In the Level 4 Diploma, practitioners currently employed in sport and fitness will develop their understanding of advanced anatomical, physiological and pathological principles relevant to the application of sports massage. They will gain a range of advanced skills and massage techniques and understand.

Can any governing bodies exclude other qualified personnel from practising?

No organisation other than those registered with HPC (i.e state registered) are allowed to regulate outside their own membership, just as we at Sports Therapy UK can and do not. An organisation such as ours are of course allowed to promote the standards we train to and maintain through our professional code of conduct. However, we are not allowed to state or infer to the general public that anyone outside such an organisation is ineligible or unsuitable to practise in a given field; only HPC has the power to do that, and only once the profession has become state registered.

Can any organisation impose restrictions to practise in the future?

In addition, it is unfair for any organisation, no matter how much communication they have had with HPC, to infer that by not being a member (or training with that organisation), they will be excluded from registration when, and if state registration is passed through parliament in the future.

What will it take for State Registration to happen in sports massage/sports therapy?

To achieve state registration for a profession is a long and arduous process. Representatives from at least 80% of the industry must first agree that state registration is wanted by the majority. An independent body must then be formed to take this forward with HPC. This body must then agree the standards of practise and training which will form the benchmarks for the profession. Once this has been done the information must be documented and presented in an acceptable format to the HPC for approval, and ultimately before parliament for passing as a bill.

If State Registration occurs will I have to pass further qualifications? How will I stand if and when the HPC regulate sports massage therapy and/or sports therapy?

If this stage is reached successfully (which will take a great deal of resources and many years to complete), the scheme commences with a process called 'grandparenting' which allows practitioners such as you and I to produce evidence of our abilities, by the extent of our experience as well as past qualifications. This 'grandparenting' process remains as a window of opportunity to all practitioners for a period of two years following state registration before the new and approved standards of training become the sole route to practising as a state registered sports massage therapist.

Isn't it obvious that the industry will want State Registration?

As to whether the 'industry' wants sports massage therapy/sports therapy to be state registered, although most will agree that in principle this is a very positive development, there are many that fear it may become prohibitively expensive. For example, other state registered practitioners such as osteopaths have to pay annual fees and insurance of in excess of £1500. We know many sports massage therapists who are also qualified in other therapies as well as those who are also personal trainers, gym instructors, etc. They are worried that if more than one of their professional areas, or worse still, several become state registered, they will have mounting fees running to thousands of pounds per annum which will effectively exclude them from their chosen vocation.

Is State Registration likely to happen soon?

At the time of writing (Jan 2008), we have received a letter from the Health Professions Council, indicating what must be achieved for sports therapy to become state 'industry' wants sports massage therapy/sports therapy to be state registered, although

Is the sports massage course internationally recognised? I want to ultimately work in the US, so need the course to be international.

There is no short answer to this. Every country has its' own 'governing bodies' and/or government legislation which either guides or legislates for who can practise where. This varies considerably form one country to the next and worse still in your case, from one state to the next in the U.S.A. I have had experience in helping past graduates work in various countries and states. For example, I am aware that California have very strict rules on who can practise and make it exceptionally onerus for any therapist to gain a license to work in sports therapy. Other countries such as Australia are much more lax and hence, it is relatively easy to work as a sports therapist there. You will therefore need to be more specific about where you would like to work and investigate the state or country in question. Further guidance may be gained from Independent Professional Therapists International who validate our courses for professional indemnity insurance. They can insure for some countries abroad and previewing their list may give you an indication of where least restrictions are imposed. (You will find a link to their website from ours).

 

As for international recognition, yes we have gained some abroad but it would be untrue to say that we are known by many overseas organisations; there are just far too many for us to be proactive in this way. But this also goes for all training organisations unless it is for a state registered therapy such as osteopathy or physiotherapy. In sports therapy you really need to show evidence of the extent of training (which we do via our course record), level of qualification (in our case recognised by University of Bedfordshire) and your experience.

 

I hope this helps clear some 'muddied' waters. Please contact us again if we can help further.

Is your Sports Massage training approved by the SMA (Sports Massage Association)?

We at Sports Therapy UK are constantly monitoring all professional and training developments in sports massage therapy and sports therapy. We have strong links with the University of Bedfordshire who approve our courses for rapid entry to their sports therapy degree programme. We are also a Sports Massage Association and VTCT approved training provider. Full details of news such as this is sent via our website to all those who have 'subscribed' their email addresses on our Home Page by following the For Updates link.

What kind of work experience or events am I able to attend?

At Sports Therapy UK, we are pleased to tell you that we have a number of annual sporting events which we are invited by the organisers to attend with teams of sports massage practitioners. These teams include both students and qualified practitioners and are insured to work at these events.

Do I need insurance to practice?

Yes. VTCT (the awarding body), require you to obtain professional indemnity insurance. This should be renewed annually. You may also obtain student cover whilst you are training. Full details will be provided when you commence the practical training.

How long will it take me to qualify?

Our Flexible Award Programme allows you to progress at a pace to suit you, although you must complete your qualification no longer than 12 months after completion of your practical training.

What happens if I miss a training weekend?

Level 3 - this will depend on how much you miss and we will discuss this with you individually. In the unfortunate event of you suffering circumstances that force you to miss part of the course, we recommend that due to the progressive nature of our practical training, you either receive one-to-one tuition before the next part of the practical training, or you defer to a later course (subject to available places).

 

With the former, you will be required to pay the additional tutor fee, and attend the extra training on a weekday. If you defer to a later course, there will be a transfer fee, and it will depend on available places at the time you defer. If the deferral period is too long you may be asked to repeat part or all of the practical training on the later course.

 

Level 4 - Providing you have completed all of your course payments by the end of the course you enrolled on, and you have not missed more than 20% of your practical training, we will allow you to attend 'repeat' training days in order to achieve all learning outcomes for the Award you are studying. These additional training days will be offered on the next training course at no extra cost to you. This will of course, extend your training period so we naturally hope you are able to attend all available dates.

If individual tuition is required for any part of the course missed, and to enable you to continue on the course you have started, we will discuss and arrange this with you. Fees are kept to a minimum to cover tutor costs.

 

Please note that you must attend ALL practical training days.

How much coursework is involved?

Please see individual course details for recommendations concerning the study hours needed to successfully complete each Award. Naturally this is subject to each individual's learning style, prior knowledge,frequency of study, as well as other factors.

What do the exams involve?

At level 3 (certificate) you will complete a sports massage practical assessment, portfolio, a case study, and an anatomy and physiology multiple choice paper. The practical element will be an in class observation on your final day of practical training.

 

At level 4 (diploma) you will be required to complete a sports massage written exam paper, portfoilo, a case study, and an anatomy and physiology multiple choice paper if not already obtained at level 3. Your practical skills will be assessed along with a VIVA.

The Treatment Room

 

The Treatment Room

 

Tips, tricks and advice for you as Sports Therapy Practitioners.

You can also signup for our treatment room updates. Regular tips, tricks and advice straight to your inbox!

 

Enter the Treatment Room