Sports osteopaths work in a variety of settings like sporting clubs, athletic arenas and in private practice. Like all osteopaths, they diagnose, treat, manage or try to prevent general sporting injuries. However, a sports osteopath will often focus on one or two specific sports. That focus includes a comprehensive understanding of biomechanics, performance needs and injuries or strains within the sport.

Sports osteopaths help patients to enhance sporting performance in their chosen sport. When a patient sees a sports osteopath for this purpose, they may not have a sporting injury. The patient may instead be seeking to improve specific muscle strength, sporting capabilities, and prevent future injuries.

While all osteopaths have knowledge of human physiology and biomechanics, sports osteopaths have developed further knowledge, experience and training in understanding biomechanical requirements in a sport or sports, applying related clinical assessment approaches, strengthening, conditioning and rehabilitation techniques.

Sports osteopaths may work with competitive sports people or patients who play sport for leisure and recreation. For professional or elite sports players, check to see that the sports osteopath has a comprehensive understanding of your sport.

Assessments performed by a sports osteopath may include the following components:

  • Review of the way your body moves, including any restrictions to your range of movement, speed, agility, flexibility, strength or coping against the requirements of your chosen sport

  • Discussion of your perceived sporting performance, muscle weaknesses, injury concerns or past injuries

  • Use of outcome measures to determine your range or level of sporting function, and biomechanical imbalances in your body that may put you at risk of injury or repeat injury during play

  • Use of a range of physical examinations, neurological and orthopaedic tests to assess current function or movement or the severity of your injury and provide a prognosis of how, and to what extent, the injury will impact your capacity to play or perform.

What distinguishes the treatment of a sports osteopath from another osteopath that may have an interest in managing general sporting injuries with hands-on physical techniques, is the use of active treatment approaches designed around the demands of your chosen sport. For instance, exercises and routines that empower you to build your capabilities and resilience in a sport or specific sporting position. Sports osteopaths coach sports people of all levels in the application and refinement of exercises related to their sport and position. 

Sports osteopaths are part of a broad network of sports health professionals. They give referrals to and work with sports physicians, general practitioners, exercise physiologists, physiotherapists and other health professionals.

Osteopathy Australia's Clinical Practice Group (CPG) in sports exists to recognise members with further skills in sports injury and sports capability management. Click here to find out more about our CPGs. 

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