How To Become A Professional Sports Massage Therapist

Wondering how to become a sports massage therapist? This career track allows those who are passionate about sports to help athletes recover and compete at their best. It can even open the door to allowing you to become a sports massage therapist for your favorite sports teams. 

Plus, the long-term growth rate of this profession — at 22 percent from 2024 through 2028 — is higher than the average of all occupations in the United States, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Simply put, opportunities are expanding in the field. So start planning for a successful career in the industry. 

How Long Does It Take to Become a Licensed Sports Massage Therapist?

To become a professional sports massage therapist, it takes, on average, approximately 1-year to complete training – which equates to about 700 or more hours of coursework and hands-on experience. However, in other countries, qualifications for licensing and certification are different. For example, in the U.K. or Scotland, it may take up to three years depending upon the type of degree you pursue or 2,200 hours of coursework should you pursue sports massage therapist certification in Canada

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Sports Massage Therapist Licensing, Certification, and Education

In the U.S., a sports massage therapist will have to meet different licensing requirements depending on the state – which usually means you must graduate from an accredited massage therapy program. Because of that, it’s wise to check the rules of the state where you intend to practice before selecting an educational track, per Study.com.

To enroll in a massage therapy program, you will need a high school diploma or GED. Find a school that meets sufficient quality standards accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA). Areas covered in these programs – which involve at least 500 hours of study – include kinesiology, anatomy, and healthcare ethics, per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

You may also study sports and rehabilitative therapy by earning an associate’s degree. These programs focus on the assessment and treatment of athletic injuries. Beyond sports massage, therapy courses often additionally include Swedish massage, deep tissue therapy, and pathology. Plus, you will typically need to take human physiology and anatomy classes, and you may need to complete CPR and first aid training.

You must get a state license in massage therapy to become a sports massage therapist. Typically you will need to pass an exam after you have completed the 500- to 1000-hour program mentioned above. While the process is focused generally on massage certification rather than sports massage certification, you could specialty-focus with certification in myofascial release or other key sports massage approaches.

A new development that will become increasingly relevant is the alliance between ITEC, an international credentialing organization, and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). The intention of the partnership is for students to specialize in sports medicine at schools approved by the NCBTMB while giving them access to ITEC credential programs.

The Different Titles for Massage Therapists

Again, each state has its own requirements related to massage therapists, which means titles may differ – although often interchangeable. Typically, there are four different titles used:

  1. Certified Massage Therapist (CMT) – certification received from an educational or professional organization, such as the NCTMB, National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage.
  2. Certified Massage Practitioner (CMP) – have less training hours but are certified to practice massage therapy.
  3. Registered Massage Therapist (RMT) – licensed or registered through their state but have met fewer requirements than a licensed massage therapist.
  4. Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) – licensed through a state government and allowed to practice by meeting state requirements.

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Understanding Sports Healthcare Terminology

It’s also important to understand any other healthcare professionals involved in treatment. A full healthcare team assists sports teams at the college and pro levels, including medical doctors, nutritionists, athletic trainers, and physical therapists. Communication is fundamental. You need to be adept at using the same language as the athletic trainer and others. You must understand the terminology used by these practitioners, such as how a strain differs from a sprain. 

Learn whether the team or clinic already uses massage. When you identify an athletic clinic or team where you want to practice, look at the treatments they already have in place and determine how massage could be incorporated. 

Various studies have demonstrated that massage is beneficial in multiple ways important to sports:

  • Swelling mitigation
  • Soft tissue functional improvement
  • Muscular tension alleviation
  • Expanded range of motion.

Have confidence in your massage capabilities as well as in the general impact of massage to enhance performance. You may need to sometimes communicate the positive effects of massage to other sports healthcare professionals.

Landing A Career In the Sports Industry

The sports industry is incredibly competitive. You may have to work hard to connect with insiders – particularly if you want to become a sports massage therapist for sports teams. 

You can significantly simplify this process by using online networking tools – especially niche-focused ones in the world of sports. At JobsInSports.com, we offer the network to help you win your career. What’s more, it’s grown incredibly in recent months – with a current membership of well over 12,000 sports industry professionals. Join our network today to start networking and propel your sports career.