If Injured, Who Should I Go To?
Russell Gunner, C.A.T. (C)

If injured, whom should I go to? This is the question that I am continually faced with. Many athletes are unaware of the resources available to them when an injury occurs. In the sport of running, unfortunately injuries are a large part of the game. There are few athletes who have ran can say that they have never experienced an injury somewhere along the line. If you have ever experienced a sports injury, there was a good chance that you may have gone for some therapy to help relieve the symptoms and get you back on the ice as quickly as possible. Who did you see when this happened? Therapy options are usually Athletic Therapy (A.T.), Physiotherapy (P.T.), Chiropractor or perhaps an alternative form of therapy (acupuncture, osteopathy, etc.). The focus of this article will only be on two of these methods of therapy, Athletic Therapy and Physiotherapy.


Several times a day, people will come into my office and call me a physio, or they tell a friend they are going to physio as opposed to saying I am going for therapy. I will usually correct them that I am a Certified Athletic Therapist, but they are often unsure of the differences. There are only a few technical differences between an A.T. and P.T. An Athletic Therapist belongs to an organization called the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association (C.A.T.A.), while a Physiotherapist belongs to the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (C.P.A.). An A.T. would be considered certified, while a P.T. is registered.

When an A.T. graduates from school, (programs offered at Sheridan College in Oakville or York University in Toronto), they will have an excellent sports medicine base of knowledge to build upon. This knowledge ranges from emergency medical skills, equipment selection/repair, supportive taping, assessment and extensive rehabilitation techniques that are useful in whatever setting they choose. Generally, an A.T. specializes in athletic settings like a sports medicine clinic or a professional team. An example of this is the training staff of the Toronto Argonauts or Montreal Alouettes, all of whom are Certified Athletic Therapists. Athletic Therapists can also be found in a more diversive area such as fitting for sports braces, fitness assessments or sports specific training.

When a Physiotherapist graduates from University (programs available across Canada), they will be skilled in all areas of rehabilitation (strokes, burns, orthopaedic etc.), as well as, clinical assessment and rehabilitation skills. Therefore, you would most often find a P.T. within the hospital or clinical setting. This is not always the norm, because P.T.?s can also be found with professional teams. Kevin Wagner who was the the head therapist with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators is a Physiotherapist and Athletic Therapist

Another significant difference between the two professions is what courses the therapist may take following school. In Athletic Therapy, we are required to maintain our certification by staying up to date with the latest forms of rehabilitation. The Physiotherapy association does not yet require this, although it is my understanding that they are currently researching it and may implement it soon. There are several courses that anybody can take. It is up to the therapist to decide, depending upon their preferences and funds available.

Now that the educational differences have been established, the question still remains, who should you go see for a separated shoulder from last week?s game? That, of course, depends upon your partiality. Some athletes feel an Athletic Therapist will be better trained to deal with all stages of the athlete?s rehabilitation and better understand the sport of hockey because of their educational background. A Physiotherapist however who has taken their 3 S.P.D. levels (Sports Physiotherapy Division), will be considered at the same sports medicine level as an A.T. Unfortunately, a Physio, who has not taken these courses, may not have a good understanding of the demands placed upon different joints in a sport such as hockey. However, this does not mean they will not be able to rehabilitate the injury, but rather that their understanding of sport specific exercises may not always be appropriate.

Unfortunately, an obstacle Athletic Therapy must currently face is the lack of insurance companies that provide A.T. coverage. For those of you that have extended health care, check to see if they cover Athletic Therapy and if not ask them if they would. If they do, they are only one of the current dozen companies that do. The association is currently trying to get legislated within Ontario, so that we would be covered by all health care plans, and open up the opportunity for more Athletic Therapists in your area.

So if you are injured or seeing someone at the moment, ask to find out what profession they are. You may be surprised to find out they are not what you thought. Don?t be shy to also find out about their educational background, such as what post-secondary school they attended and what rehabilitation courses they may have taken since graduation. If you need to go for therapy, determine whom you would like to see first, and when calling, ask to see if they have that profession on staff. Just remember, even though the clinic calls themselves a sports injuries centre that does not always mean that the staff is sports qualified. They must have at least one of the following to call themselves a sports clinic: an Athletic Therapist, Sports Physiotherapist, Sports Chiropractor or Sports Medicine Physician.

If you have any questions regarding Athletic Therapy or the closest therapist in your area, check out the CATA Website.