Opportunities in sports physiotherapy
Training, earning possibilities and future prospects
Many people first heard of sports physiotherapists as a result of their work with professional athletes, the Olympic Games or other international competitions. In order to become a licensed sports physiotherapist, a physiotherapist must first complete a course of training, giving rise to the question: is training to become a sports physiotherapist worth the time and money?
Sports physiotherapists work with athletes and provide them with support, especially in the event of injury. Yet sports physiotherapists also do preventive work, particularly when assisting professional athletes and others involved in competitive sports. In order to be eligible for training to become a sports physiotherapist, it is necessary to have completed training as a physiotherapist.
Students in these courses of training deal with such topics as sport medicine, training science and physiotherapy. This means that training plans may include any of a wide range of topics, among them functional anatomy, sports injuries, doping in sports, muscle and tissue structure, performance and nutrition physiology, clinical diagnostics, and preventive and rehabilitation training.
As there are no uniform guidelines regarding the content or duration of training necessary to become a sports physiotherapist, the courses offered by each individual training provider can vary markedly. The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) offers accreditation to those training providers who are able to demonstrate sufficient quality and course content, allowing these providers to advertise their status as DOSB-certified training providers.
Sports physiotherapists who are looking to work with competitive athletes, such as those taking part in the Olympic Games, or who would like to work with the German Football Association (DFB), require certification from the DOSB. It is important here to note that not all DOSB-certified courses automatically entitle the participants to become DOSB-certified sports physiotherapists, as this certification can also be given to courses in the fundamentals.
This DOSB basic course and two years of practical experience are prerequisites for applying to receive a spot in a training course to become a DOSB sports physiotherapist. If someone manages to secure one of the 36 places that are offered each year by the DOSB, they will be trained to become a licensed DOSB sports physiotherapist.
Bodo von Unruh is one of these DOSB sports physiotherapists. He has worked with Olympic and national teams, and is currently responsible for providing physiotherapy support for referees in the Bundesliga, Germany's top football league. As he puts it: “It wasn’t the earnings possibilities that enticed me to undergo this training – I was primarily driven by my love of sports, as I was active in competitive sports at that time. The excellent training I received to become a DOSB sports physiotherapist is now an important factor in allowing me to deliver optimum care for the large number of athletes that are my clients.”
For those who would like to work as a sports physiotherapist, it is also possible to qualify for this work by studying sports science. The German Sport University Cologne, for example, offers a master’s degree (M.Sc.) in sports physiotherapy. However, this course is limited to 22 students per semester. In order to gain their accreditation, applicants must be able to prove that they have earned a bachelor's degree with at least 180 ECTS credits, completed training to become a physiotherapist and received a permit to work as such, and provide evidence of at least one year of experience working in the field of physiotherapy.
According to a ranking from Spiegel Online, people who have studied sports physiotherapy are among the worst-paid of all those with academic credentials. This is something that is worth thinking about when applying for acceptance to the four-semester course of study to become a sports physiotherapist, as the course alone costs nearly 10,000 euros.
If you compare the costs of studying and training with the daily payment of 90 euros that a sports physiotherapists receives when working for Germany's national ice hockey team, it becomes clear that passion has to be a key part of your motivation to enter this line of work.
For physiotherapists who do not want to work in the field of competitive sports, there are still more than enough reasons to complete training to become a sports physiotherapist. Sports physiotherapists are very important to the approx. 23 million people in Germany who actively pursue sports. Whether it be due to doing too much or to doing the wrong things, sports injuries are a frequent occurrence, and a well-trained sports physiotherapist is a huge help to those who suffer these injuries.
Johannes Fetzer, a sports physiotherapist and osteopath who operates a therapy centre in Hamburg in collaboration with the orthopaedist Dr. Jan Schilling, puts it this way: “Our extensive training and experience in the field of elite sports can be particularly beneficial to non-athletes and those for whom sports are a hobby. We make it possible to provide every patient with accurate diagnoses and optimum treatment – including those who are not athletes.”
The fact that many of the physiotherapists who currently have their own private practices and the healthy income these bring are also those who completed extensive training is certainly no accident. Training to become a sports physiotherapist not only provides a wealth of expertise and experience, but it can also lead to a very good reputation on account of the numerous contacts in the field of competitive sports.