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Scope of Practice

Sports Injury

At the OATA Board’s Annual Strategic retreat in June of 2013, the Directors worked collaboratively to devise a new scope of practice statement for the profession in Ontario.  There were two objectives in doing so.  The principal objective was to devise a scope of practice statement that reflects the modern athletic therapy practice in Ontario.  The second objective was to cast the scope of practice statement using the terminology and structure of scope of practice statements for professions regulated under the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA).

"The practice of Athletic Therapy is within the sport medicine model of care and is the assessment (in either the field or clinical setting) of neuromuscular and musculoskeletal disease, dysfunction or disorders;  and the treatment, rehabilitation, management, prevention or relief of physical dysfunction, injury or pain to develop, maintain, rehabilitate or augment function and promote mobility."

The scope of practice devised by the Board is:

With the new work underway on the case of an Athletic Therapy Specialty within the College of Kinesiology of Ontario, work will continue to hone the Athletic Therapist scope of practice statement in consultation with academic program leaders and the national association.

To assist in the process, two points need to be made.

First, any scope of practice statement devised and adopted by the OATA would not "trump" a scope of practice statement legislated by the government.  For example, should Athletic Therapists decide to join the College of Kinesiologists, we would be governed by the statutory scope of practice in the Kinesiology Act, 2007 which is broader and arguably more vague than the scope of practice statement the OATA Board has put forward.  It would be the statutory scope of practice that would form the basis for the recognition of academic programs by the College of Kinesiologists.

Second, there has been considerable debate around the use of the term "diagnose" in the scope of practice statement devised by the Board.  Some see this as an infringement of the RHPA -controlled act of "communicating a diagnosis".  It's not.  The original framers of the RHPA made it very clear that the controlled act applies only to the communication of a diagnosis to a patient or to a patient's personal representative. That position has subsequently been confirmed on numerous occasions by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.  There is no prohibition against a practitioner formulating a diagnosis to inform the development of a treatment plan.  The RHPA also defines diagnosis as the act of "identifying a disease or disorder as the cause of symptoms of the individual in circumstances in which it is reasonably foreseeable that the individual or his or her personal representative will rely on the diagnosis". 

Physical Therapy

There is also no prohibition against communicating a diagnosis relating to a physical dysfunction. Members of RHPA professions that are not authorized to perform the controlled act of "communicating a diagnosis" are, nonetheless, able to:

  • Formulate a diagnosis in their own minds in order to determine the best course of treatment;

  • Communicate an assessment arising from that diagnosis; and

  • Communicate a diagnosis pertaining to a physical dysfunction.

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