The Differences Between Physiotherapy and Athletic Therapy

8 May 2018
This article was published before the transition to the new Plan Administrator, Canada Life. If you have any questions, contact the PSHCP Member Contact Centre at 1-855-415-4414 (toll-free anywhere in North America) or 1-431-489-4064 (call collect if you are outside North America).

Under the Medical Practitioners Benefit, the PSHCP provides coverage for physiotherapy for a maximum eligible expense of up to $500 and over $1,000 per calendar year. However, the Plan does not provide reimbursement for expenses incurred for athletic therapy.

The difference between the Physiotherapists and Athletic Therapists lies in their training and their scope of practice.


Physiotherapists assess, diagnose, and treat illnesses, injuries and disabilities, focussing in particular on the musculoskeletal (muscles, bones and joints), neurological, cardiorespiratory and multi-systems.

These practitioners have a Bachelor’s degree and follow a course-based Master’s degree in physiotherapy in one of the 15 universities across Canada that offer accredited programs by Physiotherapy Education Accreditation Canada (PEAC). Students also participate in a minimum of 1,025 supervised professional practice hours.

Physiotherapy is a regulated profession in Canada and practitioners must register with the regulatory body in their province or territory. The Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators (CAPR) evaluates educational credentials and administers exams for competency on behalf of most provincial/territorial regulators.

Athletic Therapists:

Athletic Therapists specialise in the prevention, assessment and treatment of musculoskeletal disorders especially as they relate to athletics and physical activity. They use a variety of techniques and procedures to heal the injury and prepare the patient for a safe reintegration into an active lifestyle.

They are certified by the Canadian Athletic Therapists Association and can be recognized by the credential CAT(C).

To be certified, an Athletic Therapist needs to first complete a Bachelor’s degree as well as an Athletic Therapy program at one of the seven accredited institutions in Canada. They must also hold a valid CPR and First Aid certificate and complete 1,200 hours of practical training. Once they are qualified, an Athletic Therapist can take the National Certification Examination, which includes both a written and a practical exam.

For more information on the Medical Practitioner Benefit, click here.