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Tim Petrie, DPT, OCS, is a board-certified orthopedic specialist who has practiced as a physical therapist for more than a decade.
Laura Campedelli, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist with experience in hospital-based acute care and outpatient therapy with both children and adults.
Whether you are a professional athlete or a weekend warrior, sports medicine physical therapy (PT) may be appropriate for you. This type of PT can not only assist you in recovering from an injury, it can actually help prevent one from developing in the first place.
Many sports medicine physical therapists have a background in athletic training, and some may be board-certified sports clinical specialists (SCS) through the American Physical Therapy Association. Because of this, these PTs are uniquely qualified to treat a wide array of sports-related diagnoses and to meet the sport-specific needs of an athlete.
If you have sustained a common injury like a sprain or strain, are trying to return to sports after surgery, or are just looking to stay at the top of your game, learn more about what this type of physical therapy entails in the sections below. 
 Andersen Ross / Getty Images
There are many different types of sports injuries. That said, some of the most commonly treated concerns include:
Your time with a sports medicine physical therapist typically begins with a comprehensive evaluation. Here is what to expect during this assessment:
Using the info they gather during the evaluation, your PT will determine which areas you need to address in therapy in order to return to your chosen sport or exercise. If you are more interested in injury prevention, this evaluation can also identify any potentially harmful underlying factors and help guide your therapy sessions moving forward. 
Frequently, sports medicine physical therapy is broken down into three specific phases:
Exercises are a key component of most sports medicine physical therapy treatments. While the focus and type of exercise can vary depending on your condition and goals, several common varieties are usually utilized. They include:
Many PT clinics have a wide variety of equipment that can assist with the exercises described above. Equipment may include:
To add to this, in some cases, higher-level tools like video motion analysis or isokinetic testing (a machine that formally measures your muscle strength) may also be used to get more objective data on any deficits that your therapist detects.
In order to make your home program as convenient as possible, however, in many cases minimal (if any) equipment is needed.
While sports medicine physical therapy is most commonly needed after an injury or surgery, it can actually be used to help prevent an injury from occurring in the first place.
To accomplish this, a therapist will typically assess an athlete for any weakness or flexibility deficits in their supporting musculature that may potentially lead to an injury down the road. A comprehensive screen of your movement patterns is also frequently performed to check for any faulty mechanics while running, cutting, jumping, or throwing.
Following this examination, a customized plan can be implemented to address any issues that are found along the way. Injury prevention programs have been found to be effective in reducing lower-body injuries, like an ACL tear, in athletes. In addition, strengthening and stretching programs have also been shown to decrease the risk of shoulder and elbow disorders in throwing athletes.
Sports medicine is a blanket term that refers to any medical intervention that treats or prevents athletic-related injuries or conditions. This field of medicine can include many different options, including surgeries, injections, prescription medications, bracing, psychology, and physical therapy.
If you are an athlete or an active individual who is looking to treat or prevent a sports-related condition, this type of PT may be appropriate. Sports medicine physical therapy focuses on addressing any deficits that are keeping you from performing at your highest level and on creating an individualized exercise plan that meets the demands of your sport.  
Working with an experienced sports medicine therapist can help you identify areas of muscular weakness or tightness that may lead to a future injury. In addition, by homing in on faulty movement patterns and working with a PT to improve your mechanics, certain types of athletic-related conditions may also be avoided.  
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American Physical Therapy Association. Become a board certified sports clinical specialist.
Children’s Wisconsin. Sports medicine physical therapy.
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Matsel KA, Butler RJ, Malone TR, Hoch MC, Westgate PM, Uhl TL. Current concepts in arm care exercise programs and injury risk reduction in adolescent baseball players: a clinical review. Sports Health. 2021;13(3):245-250. doi: 10.1177/1941738120976384
Duke Health. Sports medicine.

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