Athletic Training Vs. Physical Therapy: The Difference

Athletic Training Vs. Physical Therapy: The Difference

Both athletic trainers and physical therapists assist people who have suffered some injuries to get back to normal. The function of both is to ensure smooth functioning of body movements. However, there is a difference between athletic trainers and physical therapists. Athletic trainers and physical therapists have different educations, certifications and workplace settings. The following list shows the difference between the two.

Target Audience

Athletic training is provided for athletes from school kids to professional adult athletes. It includes individuals as well as sports team. They are concerned with both the physical well-being as well providing with the necessary sports medicine for athletes. Physical therapy is given to people of all age groups including senior citizens who find difficulty in their body movements. It includes both people playing sports as well as performing various other activities.

Nature of Work

​The nature of work is another difference between athletic trainers and physical therapists. Athletic trainers focus on diagnosis and taking care of minor injuries. They look after the athlete as and when the injury occurs while playing sports or training. Another function of an athletic trainer is to make an athlete fit and capable of competing in any given sport.

Physical therapists address the pain and prevent further injury once the injury has been diagnosed. They pay attention to the person until he recovers from the pain or injury. Physical therapists work closely with a physician and make sure that right sports medicine is given depending upon the problem.

Type of Injury

An athletic trainer deals with an immediate injury suffered by the athlete and looks after him until he is taken to the emergency room. It includes injuries such as joint sprains, muscle strains and spasms which limit mobility and hurts the athlete. A physical therapist looks after body pain and problems with restoring the functions of body parts. Physical therapy is used to treat injuries as well as other wide range of ailments such as congenital anomalies, cardio-respiratory problems, neurological issues, amputations, burns and many others.


Athletic training is provided both before and after an injury. The training is given to remain fit and become stronger, in order to compete better. An athletic trainer treats minor injuries as an immediate backup for the athlete. Also, training includes exercises for various parts of the body, depending on the nature of sports. Sports medicines are also given to increase stamina and strength. Physical therapy treatment is much more medically based with a strong emphasis on injuries with a basis in Orthopedics, Neurology/Neurosurgery, and Cardiovascular conditions. Many of the degenerative joint conditions are well attended by physical therapists as they are specifically trained for this purpose. Physiotherapy treatments include hands-on techniques, physiotherapy taping, acupuncture, dry needling, physiotherapy exercises, bio-mechanical analysis and the rest.

By knowing the difference between athletic trainers and physical therapists, you know which one to approach. An athletic trainer helps in training and dealing with smaller injuries.  While a physical therapist helps you in recovering back to normal. So if you’ve had a major injury or you face some prolonged chronic pain, 
get in touch with a physiotherapist.