PTA’s Role in Competition

physical therapist assistant

Oftentimes, when we think about competition, we think about professional sports. So, it might come as some surprise to hear that Physical Therapist Assistants (PTAs) are rarely utilized as health care practitioners in professional competition.

“PTAs are utilized in the realm of college sports all the way down to weekend warriors and childhood,” said Wanda Peresic, PT, DPT, MS, Physical Therapist Assistant Program Director at Concorde’s campus in Kansas City, Mo. “Competition begins very early in life when we start participating in pre-little league, little league, gymnastics, etc. as toddlers and early childhood.”

Physical therapist assistant drawn to athletics

According to Peresic, one of the main reasons why people want to become a physical therapist assistant is their exposure with physical therapy through athletics.

“When prospective students are asked of their future goals, many will state sports medicine,” Peresic said. “Sports medicine is a branch of medicine that is used to treat athletes and their injuries. It differs from orthopedic medicine in the fact that sports medicine is dealing with the holistic approach to the athlete, including the mental component.”

Obtaining employment in sports medicine

What does the physical therapist assistant need to do to obtain employment in the sports medicine field? Students in Peresic’s program are first encouraged to get a bachelor’s degree after graduation in athletic training.

“The combination of the two degrees will improve your marketability as a PTA,” she said.

Second, the American Physical Therapy Association has the PTA Advanced Proficiency Pathway program in which the PTA can work on obtaining proficiency in many areas of physical therapy including orthopedics. Third, it’s important to take additional college or continuing education courses that specifically focuses on athletic injuries. Last, but not least, it is important and beneficial to volunteer in a clinic that does sports medicine.

The role of the physical therapist assistant in sports medicine

So, the question comes back around – how does the physical therapist assistant play a role in competition?

“The answer is very simple,” Peresic said. “We play an active role in helping the patient to heal the wound, whether internal or external, improve one’s strength and mobility and, lastly, to return the person to the function that is needed to compete … whether it is in life or in sports.”

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