Physical Therapy for Athletic Performance

By Sierra Hobday, MS, LAT, ATC

Physical Therapy for Athletic Performance

Physical therapy is designed to help individuals to increase their movement and functionality. In addition to, help manage and decrease pain for a variety of injuries, disabilities, or other health conditions. Physical therapy can also be important in the prevention and treatment of athletic related injuries and help to improve athletic function and sports performance. Some benefits of physical therapy for improving sports performance include:

  • Improving flexibility and range of motion
  • Correcting muscle imbalances
  • Increasing muscle strength and endurance
  • Increases of overall power and speed
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Physical Therapy for Athletic Performance


Physical Therapy for Sports Performance

Athletes can use physical therapy for various reasons including injury prevention, injury rehabilitation, skill specific conditioning and training, and aiding in proper recovery techniques. Athletes who wish to keep their bodies healthy and training at top performance should consider consulting with physical therapists and certified athletic trainers for individualized programs designed to meet the needs and requirements their sport demands.

Different sports and different positions within sports require different demands from an athlete’s body. A baseball pitcher is going to have different demands on their body than a football offensive lineman would. Physical therapy is specialized to each individual’s needs and functional requirements and can be created to enhance athletic skills such as speed, endurance, power, reactivity, and agility, all of which are important for different positions in various sports. Working on various sport related skills in physical therapy can help translate into increased performance and confidence on the field or court.

Physical Therapy Following Athletic Related Injury

Many athletes will undergo physical therapy when they sustain a sport related injury or are experiencing pain related to activity. The goal of physical therapy in this case would be to restore athletic function back to the level they were at prior to being injured in order to return to their sport safely. Physical therapists and athletic trainers who evaluate an injured athlete will begin to obtain an understanding of the nature of the injury at hand and how it has impacted athletic performance and participation.


Athlete on ball working with a physical therapist. JOI Rehab

Female Athlete Working with a Physical Therapist

Role of a Physical Therapist or Athletic Trainer

Physical therapists and athletic trainers are educated in the recognition of musculoskeletal function and will be able to help educate athletes on areas where they may be lacking in, such as flexibility, strength, or balance, and how this could have contributed to their injury. These healthcare professionals will also help athletes to understand their injury further and how to correct areas of concern in order to return to their sport safely and to prevent further injury. Various exercises and stretches are then individualized to specific injuries and patient deficits, as well as sport requirements.

Physical Therapy for Injury Prevention

While many athletes focus on physical therapy when they suffer an injury, physical therapy can also be performed as a prevention method for athletes to help reduce their risk of injury through specialization strength and conditioning. Physical therapy exercises can mimic similar movement patterns that an athlete may need for their sport. Athletes perform these movement patterns in a controlled environment that allows the athlete to focus on proper mechanics needed to avoid injury.

Therapeutic Physical Therapy Treatments

Physical therapy can also be a great place to help with the recovery of the various demands of sports and athletics. Therapeutic treatments such as:

These can be performed during physical therapy in order to help stimulate blood flow and tissue healing, or aid in pain management and muscle recovery.

Written By: Sierra Hobday, MS, LAT, ATC

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