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Sports Massage Therapist: Job Description, Requirements & Training Info

Sports massage therapists use touch to massage and treat muscles that are sore as a result of a sports-related injury. They are required to be certified and licensed by the state in which they practice. Many also join a professional association before seeking employment.

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Job Description for a Sports Massage Therapist

Sports massage therapists are massage therapists who concentrate on sports rehabilitation techniques. Through their educational programs, they have developed an understanding about the therapeutic care of sports-related injuries that inhibit physical activity. This allows them to determine what massage techniques to use for different injuries. Typically, sports massage therapists work in sports medicine facilities or hospitals.

Requirements to Become a Sports Massage Therapist

Each state has its own requirements and licensure mandates for sports massage therapists. Before enrolling in a sports massage therapist program, a candidate should be sure to research the requirements for the state where he or she wishes to practice.

Educational Requirements

First, a high school diploma or its equivalent is needed to enroll in a massage therapy program. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), these programs require around 500 hours or more of study and teach the students about anatomy, kinesiology, ethics and related areas (www.bls.gov). The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) accredits massage schools that maintain a level of quality and integrity based on its standards.

Some colleges and universities also offer associate's degree programs in sports and rehabilitation therapy. In these programs, the student learns to assess and treat a variety of sports-related injuries. Most programs require students to take core courses in human anatomy and physiology, and programs may require students to complete first aid and CPR training. Massage therapy courses include deep tissue therapy, pathology, Swedish massage and sports massage.

Licensing Requirements

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), reported in 2010 that 43 states and the District of Columbia had laws regulating the practice of massage therapy (http://nccam.nih.gov). Sports massage therapists must research state requirements and, if necessary, earn licensure and become a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) by following state-issued mandates.

Training Information for a Sports Massage Therapist

Most employers require sports massage therapists to be certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). To earn NCBTMB certification, a candidate must complete a minimum of 500 hours of massage therapy instruction and pass a standardized examination demonstrating superior ability. Those who are NCBTMB-certified must recertify every four years by logging 48 continuing education hours and 200 working hours.

After certification, a sports massage therapist has the option of joining the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA). This membership allows sports massage therapists to network with potential employers and pursue continuing education. Membership in the AMTA also helps massage therapists to obtain liability insurance, which may be required by prospective employers.

The job outlook for massage therapists is good, with a 23% increase in employment expected between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS. However, this estimate takes into account all types of massage therapists, not just those who specialize in sports massage. As of May 2012, the BLS-reported average annual salary for a massage therapist was $40,350. Massage therapists working in physicians' offices earned more than the overall average, with a mean annual wage of $50,520.

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