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The Athletic Therapy Spectrum of Care

By Tanya Davies
Published

A Certified Athletic Therapist’s scope of practice starts with in-depth knowledge, education and training in the areas of the human musculoskeletal system, exercise physiology, biomechanics, and basic emergency care. Plainly said, Athletic Therapists (ATs) are effective in preventing and rehabilitating injuries and conditions to muscles, bones and joints. Athletic Therapists adhere to the Sports Medicine Model of Care, which focuses on treating the cause of the injury versus the symptoms. ATs treat the cause of an injury through a wide spectrum of therapy skills and modalities called the Spectrum of Care. The spectrum includes:

  • Injury prevention
  • Emergency and acute care
  • Rehabilitation
  • Assessment
  • Reconditioning 

We asked Megan Pomarensky, a Certified Athletic Therapist at Empowerment Rehabilitation and Training in Winnipeg, what the AT Spectrum of Care means to her.

Overview 

“Athletic Therapists are educated in a wide scope of practice that encompasses the spectrum of care. In my opinion, most Athletic Therapists work within all five therapy skills and modalities. Our focus is on musculoskeletal injuries, which can be caused by work, life or sport. Some ATs focus more on the clinical side and may not practice emergency care out in the field with a sports team; but the AT still has the scope to work with the athlete population either on the field or in the clinic.”

“When it comes to prevention, emergency care, rehabilitation, assessment and reconditioning, there's overlap, so that one therapy skill or modality would not occur without the other. For example, in some cases, emergency care and the assessment will overlap and be the same. An example of this is when we assess an injured athlete on the field.”

Injury prevention

 “Athletic Therapists prevent or minimize the possibility of injury through prevention. We identify areas where the patient may be at risk, such as muscle imbalance, joint restriction, tissue stiffness or poor balance, and then provide specific exercises to improve capacity in those areas to prevent a new or recurring injury. We also focus on the patient taking an active role in their own recovery and injury prevention.” 

Emergency and acute care

“In order to become a Certified Athletic Therapist, ATs must complete a First Responder course for urgent and emergency medical response. No matter what the setting is, we still assess the patient the same way and recommend a plan of action. We can then provide immediate treatment in the form of first aid, taping or bracing, to help manage the injury to prevent secondary complications.  After the acute care is provided, there's a chance the patient will need rehabilitation or reconditioning, so they will continue along the AT spectrum of care.”

Rehabilitation

“When we rehabilitate an injury, we not only try to get the patient back to pre-injury status, we want them to be even better than before! We use a lot of manual, hands-on therapies to increase the capacity of the injured area, so that it's stronger and more resilient.” 

Assessment

“The AT spectrum of care starts with an assessment of the patient. After an assessment, the AT will have a thorough understanding of the patient’s status and goals. The AT can then formulate a plan to help the patient reach their goals, whether they need specific rehabilitation, reconditioning, or general strength/mobility training for prevention.” 

Reconditioning

“Reconditioning is a general term we use for exercise; for when a patient is "deconditioned,” meaning they had a period of inactivity due to an injury, prolonged healing or a medical condition. Typically, I recommend reconditioning when there isn’t a particular injury that needs rehabilitation, but the patient needs general strength and conditioning. For me, reconditioning looks like a gradual exercise program. It starts at the patient’s current conditioning level and then progresses to where they need to be. It's different from rehabilitation in that the exercises are whole body and include cardiovascular.”


Contributing Athletic Therapist
Megan Pomarensky

BSc (kin), MSc Student, CAT(C)

Megan certified as an Athletic Therapist in 2013, after graduating from the University of Winnipeg. She works at Empowerment Rehabilitation and Training in Winnipeg providing athletic therapy services. She is nearing completion of a Master's in Rehabilitation Science through McMaster University. Megan’s goal is to empower as many people as she possibly can to take control of their health and fitness.