Sports Massage - An introduction


Whilst Sports Massage does have some aims in common with other forms of massage therapy, the usual experience in conventional massage is to aim to restore the normal function when someone is injured. But in sport there is no 'normal' and athletes are always looking to improve and gain a competitive edge. Most athletes aim to reach a level of performance they can never achieve.


A Sports Massage therapist has great potential to assist the athlete to become better, rather than merely normal. In striving to be better, the athlete attempts to systematically increase the level of training and thereby subjecting the body to gradual and controlled overuse. This overuse can often create imbalances and problems in the soft tissues, which if ignored may become chronic.

Clearly this may hinder the athlete's performance and/or rate of improvement. Sports Massage can become a key ingredient in an athlete's success and this is why top competitors incorporate it as an integral part of their training regime. Clearly there are also significant benefits for those other than top athletes and if you're training for an event such as the "City to Surf" then maybe you should consider Sports Massage as an integral part of your training program.

So what is Sports Massage? McGillicuddy(1) defines Sports Massage as "the specific application of massage techniques, hydrotherapy protocols, range of motion/flexibility protocol and strength-training principles utilized to achieve a specific goal when treating athletes". He considers that there are three principles that are vital to understanding what type of Sports Massage to apply to an athlete at any given time. These principles are:
- Timing
- Technique and
- Intent


The timing of Sports Massage is related to when the massage is applied, is it pre-event or post-event, during a maintenance period or possibly post-injury when rehabilitation is required. The technique refers to what massage/stretching/strengthening methods the therapists employs to attempt to achieve the intent, the desired outcome.

The intent of pre-event massage is to warm up the muscles and to get blood flowing through the muscles. The massage techniques generally used are petrissage, vibration, percussion, compression, muscle broadening strokes, etc. With post-event massage, the intent is assist in the recovery process by increasing venous and lymphatic circulation to assist with removal of metabolic by-products and thereby decreasing muscle soreness so that the athlete can return to full training faster. The massage techniques would include effleurage, compression, petrissage, passive movements and light stretching. The intent of maintenance massage is to keep the athletes muscles and tissue in optimum condition and is generally scheduled at a regular frequency (be it weekly or fortnightly), closely married to the athlete's training program.

Thus Sports Massage is not about going deep nor it is learning one technique. The requirement for the therapist is to apply the appropriate treatment at the appropriate time, which takes education, skill and experience.

(1) M. McGillicuddy. "Three Key Principles of Sports Massage". MassageToday.com May 2003, Volume03 Issue 05.


For other articles on Sports Massage go to
"Sports Massage - Pre-Event" and
"Sports Massage - Post-Event".



By Richard Lane


Any information, advice, recommendations, statements or otherwise contained herein, or in any other communication whether oral or in writing, is not intended to replace or to be a substitute for medical advice trained by a trained physician or healthcare practitioner.
Other Articles You May be Interested In

Sports Massage - Pre-event
Sports Massage - Pre-event Massage before an event can be an integral component of the pre-event preparation for many athletes. Pre-event massage can create a state of readiness in the muscles and tissues so that the athlete's performance can be optimized.
Sports Massage - Post Event
Sports Massage - Post Event The purpose of a massage after a major event is simply to aid the athlete to recover from the activity. This is achieved by reducing post-exercise soreness, re-establishing full range of motion and enhancing blood flow to tight muscles.




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