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Within the US healthcare system, the role of the physical therapist (PT) is expanding to include direct care of the professional athlete. In this editorial, we use the terms physical therapist and physiotherapist as equivalents depending on whether we are referring to the USA (physical therapist) or other parts of the world (physiotherapist). We exclude Ireland where terms ‘physiotherapist’ and ‘physical therapist’ are not protected.1 PTs are becoming more prominent in the professional sporting environment in the USA, working alongside certified athletic trainers (ATC), strength and conditioning specialists, sport scientists, and primary care sports medicine and orthopaedic physicians.
Traditional care of the professional athlete
The centre point of day-to-day care of the professional athlete has been and continues to be the ATC. The ATC is a healthcare professional unique to the USA. ATCs’ education and scope of practice includes injury/illness prevention, clinical evaluation and diagnosis, immediate and emergency care, and treatment and rehabilitation.2 On the sideline in professional sport, ATCs add value with taping, bracing and managing the spectrum of acute in-play injuries (from blisters and acute wounds to orthopaedic trauma and cervical spine stabilisation).
To maintain their national certification, ATCs are legally required to practice under the direction of or in collaboration with a licensed physician. They do not hold the privileges of autonomous practice …
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