athletic training/physical therapy

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Jun 22, 2008
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hi. my names richey and I am a freshman in college and I was wondering how I could tie athletic training and physical therapy together? I don't understand how and is a sports medicine physical therapist the same? how long does it tae to become a physical therapist? thanks.

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The fields overlap, but are not the same. Physiotherapists have a broader knowledge base, scope of practice and autonomy than athletic trainers, treat the population at large, and focus primarily on rehabilitation. Athletic trainers work just with athletes—granted that's elementary school kids to professional athletes and weekend warriors so a large population as well—and focus on optimizing the athlete's performance, preventing injury, acute injury care, and returning injured athletes back to play as soon as possible.

A physiotherapist who is also a certified athletic trainer is a great combination. Granted I'm biased, but my opinion is that a physiotherapist who is also an athletic trainer is better prepared to treat athletes than either a physiotherapist with a sports certified specialist (sports medicine physical therapist) or an athletic trainer. I base that opinion on my own educational experiences through both an ATEP undergrad and PT school.

It takes four years (maybe five years with the some university are running their courses) to graduate with a BA/BS in sports medicine, kinesiology, exercise physiology, etc, with an ATEP training or a straight BA/BS in athletic training. During that time working in the university's athletic training clinic you'll have figured out whether you enjoyed everything entailed with athletic training or if you found rehabbing the injured athletes to be the most rewarding. If it is the latter consider continuing your education.

If you do continue on to PT school, expect at least another 3 years (5-6 if you go part time). It will be lot more intense in both time and difficulty. But you'd come out a DPT, ATC, be able to get a job almost anywhere, and earn 2-3 times what you would have as new atheltic trainer (though you'd also have a lot more debt.)

Hope that helped.
There's no reason you can't tie the two together- I am doing so at the moment actually. An undergraduate track in athletic training overlaps very easily with the prereqs for physical therapy school. In fact, there are now a handful of schools that offer dual-degree programs with guaranteed matriculation into the graduate physical therapy portion (DPT) of the education provided you maintain a certain GPA. At Boston Uni. where I am enrolled, they offer a 6 year combined B.S. in Athletic Training / Doctor Physical Therapy program. It's pretty rigorous, involves a significant time commitment and 5 summers, but if it's what you want to do definitely manageable. I really never had any interest in athletic training specifically but was accepted into the program and took it up for the hell of it in that the DPT was where I eventually wanted to end up anyway. Hope that helps feel free to personal message me.
There are several avenues to take if you are intested in working with athletes.

1. become an ATC
2. become a PT
3. attend a sports residency after PT school
4. obtain your PT board certification in sports after you have gained 2 years of clinical experience with athletes
5. become a PT and ATC
6. become an exercise physiologist/kinesiologist
7. become a strength and conditioing coach(usually is an exercise science degreee)