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Case for the specialised sports physical therapist to be an essential part of professional athlete care: letter from America no. 1
  1. Donald S Strack1,
  2. Cameron W MacDonald2,
  3. Erwin Benedict Valencia3,
  4. Michael Davison4
  1. 1 Oklahoma City Thunder Basketball Club, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA
  2. 2 School of Physical Therapy, Regis University, Denver, Colorado, USA
  3. 3 New York Knicks Basketball Club, New York City, New York, USA
  4. 4 Isokinetic Medical Group, FIFA Medical Centre of Excellence, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Donald S Strack, Oklahoma City Thunder Basketball Club, Oklahoma City, OK 73114, USA; dstrack{at}

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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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  • Contributors All four authors contributed to the conception of the paper, the drafting, review and final approval of the editorial.

  • Funding This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.