Athletic therapy: Not just for athletes

September 8, 2021

You've probably heard of athletic therapy – but what is it exactly? And most importantly, what can it do for you?

To learn more, we talked to Florent Thézard, a certified athletic therapist (AT) and disability case manager at Manitoba Blue Cross.

What is athletic therapy?

Athletic therapy is the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal injuries, Thézard says. "If something is wrong with your bones, ligaments and/or muscles, we're experts at finding out what the problem is, treating it and hopefully preventing its recurrence in the future.

"So, an ankle sprain, rehabbing from your knee surgery, treating your rotator cuff that's either sore or has been repaired, your sore back- all of those are conditions or areas that an AT is an expert in."

While athletic therapy is similar to physiotherapy, it's not the same.

"To keep it simple, physio has a broader scope of practice," says Thézard. "Their expertise extends to cardiovascular and neurological conditions. They also work with children and geriatric patients to a greater extent than we do. Athletic therapy is more focused, more specialized, more of an expertise in solely musculoskeletal issues."

The term athletic therapy may bring to mind images of someone on the sidelines, taping up an athlete's ankle. But while athletic therapists can provide advanced first aid to athletes during a game, athletic therapy offers so much more.

"Athletic therapy is not just for athletes," says Thézard. "Life's a sport. Everyone is an athlete. That's sort of how we look at it."

When you visit an athletic therapist, don't just expect a training session or workout.

"Initial assessments are often hour-long sessions," says Thézard. "Anatomy and biomechanics are carefully examined, followed by treatment and the creation of a specialized and individualized rehab plan.

"Usually, it's focused towards active recovery... the importance of getting moving again, of doing the right things to fix whatever issue you came with."

What should you look for in an athletic therapist?

"What you want to look for is the accreditation, first of all," says Flo. Accredited athletic therapists have the CAT(C) certification- Certified Athletic Therapist in Canada.

From there, it depends on what you need. If you have a specific issue, you may want to look for someone with a specialty in that area.

"But for the vast majority of people, with the average musculoskeletal problem, any athletic therapist should be an expert at treating it," says Flo. "All athletic therapists share a global wealth of knowledge in the musculoskeletal system, with certain practitioners eventually specializing in certain areas- but not to the same extent that yo'd expect doctors to specialize. So everybody starts with a big, broad base of knowledge that continues to expand throughout a clinician's career."

If you're looking for an athletic therapist, Flo recommends the Manitoba Athletic Therapist Association's website, which has a tool to find an athletic therapist near you.

"Go see your athletic therapist," Thézard says. "There's a good chance that your health benefits cover it. And there's a great chance you'll benefit from it. No matter what the ache, bother or concern may be, there's a good chance your AT can help you figure it out."

To check whether you have coverage for athletic therapy, log in to your mybluecross® account.

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