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University College Dublin: Integrating sports and exercise related sciences with physiotherapy in a Masters of Sports Physiotherapy (continuing professional development series)
  1. Adam G Culvenor1,2
  1. 1 Institute of Anatomy, Paracelsus Medical University Salzburg and Nuremburg, Salzburg, Austria
  2. 2 School of Allied Health, La Trobe Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Australia
  1. Correspondence to Dr Adam G Culvenor, Institute of Anatomy, Paracelsus Medical University, Salzburg 5020, Austria; adam.culvenor{at}

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School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science, University College Dublin (UCD), Dublin, Ireland


Master of Science (MSc) in Sports Physiotherapy


A Masters in Sports Physiotherapy provides physiotherapists with a recognised postgraduate qualification and mastery of foundation concepts and skills that are becoming increasingly important factors facilitating employability and mobility in sports and exercise medicine internationally. Such specialised knowledge and clinical skills enable the development of new and clearer frameworks for clinical, managerial and intellectual thinking and understanding, and is the definitive professional recognition of clinical expertise.1


The MSc in Sports Physiotherapy is aimed at Irish and international physiotherapists with at least 2 years of clinical experience wishing to develop a specialised career in sports and exercise-related physiotherapy (table 1). The programme is the longest running sports physiotherapy MSc in Ireland with a continuous student intake since 2003. The programme is directed by Dr Ulrik McCarthy Persson who has worked as a physiotherapist in a number of national and international sports over 25 years. An experienced international team of physiotherapists, physicians, sports psychologists and sports scientists, including members of Irish Rugby Football Union, Gaelic Athletic Association, Paralympics Ireland and Athletics Ireland medical teams, contribute to a wealth of sports and exercise related theoretical and practical skills.

An advantage of the UCD programme is that teaching is delivered part-time over 2 years (with each of the four semesters running for approximately 12 weeks), enabling students to directly apply new learning in their ongoing clinical practice. The learning environment combines elements of online learning with face-to-face lectures, workshops, student presentations and a large number of practical sessions that occur 1 day per week at the UCD main campus in Dublin (with an occasional Saturday). The programme offers specialised training in all aspects of sports physiotherapy, integrating science (exercise/pain physiology and biomechanics) with sports psychology, clinical examination, screening, and manual and exercise physiotherapy.

Key course content

The course content in the first semester offers learning in the sciences underpinning sports and exercise physiotherapy such as muscle and cardiovascular/respiratory physiology, pain physiology, control of movement, sports biomechanics, sports nutrition and the principles of exercise. The second semester has a strong exercise focus with exercise in special patient groups, functional rehabilitation, exercise/fitness testing and a functional anatomy module. The first semester in the second year focuses on clinical physiotherapy assessment and treatment. The last semester includes a module on sports medicine, as well as pathology and diagnosis of sports and musculoskeletal conditions and a sports psychology module specifically tailored for physiotherapists. Throughout the duration of the programme, students complete a group-based sports physiotherapy research project on a topic of interest in collaboration with an academic supervisor, culminating in a poster presentation and journal style manuscript. A large number of publications result from these research projects including conference posters, oral presentations and journal publications.

Clinical practice

The clinical practice component is self-directed and includes a minimum of 8 weeks of clinical work with sports injury patients integrated in their own specific sports injury setting most commonly with a sports team. The 8 weeks can be completed over two semesters. The clinical component focuses on evidence based follow-through of sports injury patients from assessment to discharge back to sport participation. Clinical practice is assessed by case presentations, an applied clinical reasoning essay and through an online blog. Students post a clinical reflection blog piece using it as a tool to share clinically related content, post questions and discuss content.

Students are exposed to a variety of student-focused assessment methods such as student presentations, online blogs, essays, case studies, posters, and practical and written exams. Students have the opportunity to exit with a Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Physiotherapy by successfully completing all taught components of the programme without completing a research dissertation. On graduation, students can apply for national and international sports physiotherapist accreditation.


Applications should be submitted online by 30 June each year:!W_HU_MENU.P_PUBLISH?p_tag=PROG&MAJR=X013

Applications after this date will only be considered if the programme has not reached capacity.


The programme is delivered on the UCD main campus in Belfield Dublin, which occupies an extensive parkland estate of more than 130 hectares. Founded over 160 years ago, UCD is the largest University in Ireland with over 32 000 students, 25% of whom are international students. The UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science has the largest number of undergraduate and postgraduate students in the country and has new extensive student sports facilities. 

Table 1

Key facts



  • Contributors AGC drafted and approved the manuscript for submission.

  • Competing interests None declared.

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