Photo by KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock / Getty Images

Athletic Therapy

Athletic Therapy is the assessment, prevention, immediate care and rehabilitation of musculoskeletal injuries (muscles, bones, and joints) by a certified Athletic Therapist. Assessment involves a look at physical function and dysfunction, gait analysis, and the cause of the injury. Prevention includes musculoskeletal and postural evaluation, equipment selection, fitting and repair, warm-up, conditioning programs, prophylactic/ supportive taping, bracing and adapting to the activity, environment and facilities.

On-field immediate care of athletic injuries by a Certified Athletic Therapist includes: injury assessment, basic emergency life support, recognition and management of acute traumatic neurological dysfunction, provision of first aid, concussion recognition, proper equipment removal, preparation for entrance into appropriate health care delivery systems, or, where appropriate utilization of techniques facilitating a safe return to participation.

A Certified Athletic Therapist utilizes contemporary rehabilitative techniques, therapeutic modalities, physical reconditioning and supportive strapping procedures to promote optimal healing and prepares the individual for safe reintegration into an active lifestyle.

Athletic Therapy

Frequently Asked Questions:

What kind of training or schooling does an Athletic Therapist do?

“The Canadian Athletic Therapist Association certification process is one of the most stringent in the Canadian health care system. To achieve the status of Certified Athletic Therapist, a candidate must first meet the academic requirements of a Canadian Athletic Therapist Association approved athletic therapy curriculum leading to a bachelor's degree at an accredited post-secondary institution.
The Canadian Athletic Therapist Association requires an internship of at least 1200 hours of practical training under supervision of a Certified Athletic Therapist and hold a valid First Responder certificate. Once these criteria are met, a certification candidate is qualified to attempt the comprehensive written exam.  The final step is a practical exam covering all components of the athletic therapy scope of practice.  This includes evaluation of on-field management procedures, supportive taping/bracing procedures and clinical care evaluation and management procedures including modality applications.” 
What Kind of Setting does an Athletic Therapist work in?
An Athletic Therapist can be found working in a variety of settings. Probably the most recognizable area is when they are working in a field setting. If you have ever watched a sporting event on TV and saw a person running out onto the playing field to assist an injured player the likelihood is that, that person is an Athletic Therapist. Other settings that you could find an AT are: 
•    Universities and colleges
•    Private healthcare clinics
•    Industrial athletes
•    Professional and amateur sports teams
•    National sports organizations
•    Research groups
•    Insurance companies
•    Bracing/ footwear


What's the difference between an Athletic Therapist (AT) and a Physiotherapist (PT)?

Athletic Therapy and Physiotherapy are two distinct professional designations; the differences lies in the scope of practice and educational training they receive.

To achieve the status of a Certified Athletic Therapist, a candidate must first attend an accredited post-secondary institution that meets the academic requirements of a Canadian Athletic Therapist Association approved Athletic Therapy curriculum leading to a Bachelor's degree. The curriculum is focused in the area of assessment and rehabilitation of sports specific orthopaedic injuries and conditions that affect the muscles, bones and joints of the body.  Their specialization lies in musculoskeletal injuries sustained through physical activity, this covers a wide range of individuals from manual labourers to high performance athletes.  That training is augmented with injury prevention, supportive taping, and bracing and emergency care for on-field work with teams. Athletic Therapists must also hold a valid Emergency First Responder certification as well as specialize in sport equipment removal and equipment fitting and repair. They possess additional training in exercise physiology and strength and conditioning to retrain athletes to pre-injury performance levels or conditioning programs for injury prevention. 

Physiotherapist’s must first obtain a University degree and then a Masters in Physiotherapy. Their education has a wider scope that includes orthopaedics, cardio-respiratory rehab, burn patients, pediatrics, geriatrics, stroke rehab, and rehabilitation for neurological diseases. They study anatomy, physiology, pathology, human development, biomechanics and exercise physiology.  Their training is therefore broader in the rehabilitation of various musculoskeletal, neurological and cardiovascular disorders.  Typically, a physiotherapist will have to take continuing education courses to expand or specialize in one of the above areas of interest once they graduate and focus their attention in one area within their scope of practice.  As an example to specialize in sports specific orthopaedics to the extent of an AT, a PT would need certification as a Level III Sports Physiotherapist.  

Is AT covered by my insurance company?

Athletic Therapy coverage is in fact now available for extended health care plans with all major insurance companies but subject to individual policies. If AT is not included do not panic! Please contact us and we will provide you with the proper materials to request it to be added to your plan or you can visit the Canadian Athletic Therapy Association website by clicking here and  you can print off a letter for your insurance company to get them to add Athletic Therapy. Usually insurance companies have an "and/or" rider which means you can be covered by Physiotherapy "and/or" Athletic Therapy while maintaining the same maximum,  or it is covered in the ‘other’ therapy category such as Chiropractors, acupuncturists and  naturopaths etc.  Also remember "Physiotherapy" is usually the default and more 'well known' service that does not mean that Athletic Therapy will not be accepted, a simple call to your insurance company can give clarification and can normally be simply added over  the phone 

Utilize your benefits! Are you a member of a sporting association? AT coverage may be included. The following associations have this coverage available:

•    Hockey Canada
•    Ontario Soccer Association
•    Ontario Football Alliance
•    Ontario Basketball Association
•    Ontario Baseball
•    *Rollersport Canada
•    Alpine Canada
•    Snowboard Canada
•    Judo Canada
•    Canadian Ski & Snowboard Association
•     **Ontario Volleyball Association
•    Ontario Speed Skating Association
•     **Ontario Slo-Pitch Association

*noted paramedical services were non-specific
** listed as Physiotherapy, but Athletic Therapy is accepted

- Members of Athletes can purchase extended health insurance at a very affordable price! 
- Members (coaches, athletes, managers, and officials) of a Sporting Body, Provincial team, or any established teams or clubs are eligible to enroll in the Canadian Athlete Insurance Program (CAIP) for a very affordable price, and the biggest addition is the coverage of overuse injuries. 
To get you started here's a few examples of Insurance Companies that provide Athletic Therapy Coverage:
•    Blue Cross
•    Sunlife
•    Empire Life
•    Manulife
•    Great West Life
*If you feel that AT coverage is a beneficial service, please encourage others around you to make the same request. We would greatly appreciate your support for the Athletic Therapy profession!


No insurance? But did you know?

That if you keep your receipts, you can claim your medical expenses on your taxes! Within your extended health plan, you may have a bank for 'miscellaneous' expenses to cover extra costs or you may have a health care spending account with which services provided by your Athletic Therapists will also be covered.