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Imaging with ultrasound in physical therapy: What is the PT’s scope of practice? A competency-based educational model and training recommendations
  1. Jackie L Whittaker1,
  2. Richard Ellis2,
  3. Paul William Hodges3,
  4. Cliona OSullivan4,
  5. Julie Hides5,
  6. Samuel Fernandez-Carnero6,
  7. Jose Luis Arias-Buria7,
  8. Deydre S Teyhen8,
  9. Maria J Stokes9
  1. 1 Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  2. 2 Health and Rehabilitation Research Institute, School of Clinical Sciences, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand
  3. 3 School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  4. 4 Department of Physiotherapy and Performance Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
  5. 5 School of Allied Health Sciences, Griffith University, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
  6. 6 Departmento de Enfermeria y Fisioterapia, Universidad de Alcala de Henares, Madrid, Spain
  7. 7 Departamento de Fisioterapia, Universidad Francisco de Victoria, Madrid, Spain
  8. 8 Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA
  9. 9 School of Health Professions and Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Southampton, Southampton, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Jackie L Whittaker, Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, AB T6G 2G4, Canada; jwhittak{at}


Physical therapists employ ultrasound (US) imaging technology for a broad range of clinical and research purposes. Despite this, few physical therapy regulatory bodies guide the use of US imaging, and there are limited continuing education opportunities for physical therapists to become proficient in using US within their professional scope of practice. Here, we (i) outline the current status of US use by physical therapists; (ii) define and describe four broad categories of physical therapy US applications (ie, rehabilitation, diagnostic, intervention and research US); (iii) discuss how US use relates to the scope of high value physical therapy practice and (iv) propose a broad framework for a competency-based education model for training physical therapists in US. This paper only discusses US imaging—not ‘therapeutic’ US. Thus, ‘imaging’ is implicit anywhere the term ‘ultrasound’ is used.

  • curriculum
  • education
  • professional issues
  • rehabilitation
  • sonography

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) license, which permits others to copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon this work for any purpose, provided the original work is properly cited, a link to the licence is given, and indication of whether changes were made. See:

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  • Contributors JLW drafted the first version of the manuscript with assistance from RE and MJS. All authors contributed to discussions leading up to the manuscript, contributed to sections of the manuscript and approved the final version of the manuscript. MJS, DST, PWH, JH and JLW were involved in the initial meetings to discuss the standardisation of USI education for physical therapist at the first international meeting on RUSI in 2006. DST hosted the first international meeting on Rehabilitative Ultrasound Imaging in San Antonio, USA. SFC and JLAB hosted the second RUSI meeting in Madrid, Spain.

  • Funding The authors acknowledge the support of the Arthritis Research UK Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis (grant number 21595).

  • Competing interests All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure forms at

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

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