The practice of sports physical therapy is based on a holistic approach of prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and education of the individual. The clinical specialist in sports physical therapy uses specialized clinical skills in a variety of settings, including sports medicine centers, hospital-based clinics, and other traditional athletic environments. The sports physical therapy specialty area within the physical therapy profession involves the physiological, psychological, pathological, and performance problems of athletes and attempts to prevent or correct these problems.
In 1981 the APTA House of Delegates approved board certification in the area of sports physical therapy. The first sports specialist certification examination was administered in 1987. As of June 2023, ABPTS has certified 3,210 sports specialists.
Sports Physical Therapy Specialization and State Practice Acts
If you are board certified in sports physical therapy, you are permitted to practice only within the scope of your state physical therapy practice act. Board certification does not grant you any additional rights or privileges.
The state practice act dictates who is permitted to provide services at athletic venues, based on the state of licensure and the physical location of the venue. Board certification in sports physical therapy does not necessarily permit you to cover athletic venues; you may be required to have additional certification as an emergency medical responder or certified athletic trainer. Check your state practice act, and the practice act in the state of the athletic venue if it’s different, before you provide services.
The Role of the Sports Specialty Council
ABPTS Specialty Councils develop minimum eligibility requirements for certification and recertification in a specialty area based on ABPTS guidelines, and when required screen applicants for eligibility to sit for exams and for recertification. Specialty Council members are responsible for developing the examination instruments in consultation with the ABPTS testing agency and approved consultants.