Each sport and athletic event uses muscle groups in a different way. Sports massage therapists must be familiar with each muscle, the muscle groups and how they are affected by the specific movements and stresses of each sport

Traditional western (e.g. Swedish) massage is currently the most common approach used for conditioning programs. It is frequently supplemented by other massage therapy approaches including deep tissue, trigger point work, and acupressure. Some massage therapists have special training in sports massage and greater experience working with athletes.

Sports massage therapy frequently includes the use of one or more of the following techniques:

Deep Sweedish Massage

Muscle-specific applications of the standard effleurage, petrissage, vibration, and tapotement techniques.

Compression Massage

Rhythmic compression into muscles used to create a deep hypremia and softening effect in the tissues. It is generally used as a warm-up for deeper, more specific massage work.

Cross-Fibre Massage

Friction techniques applied in a general manner to create a stretching and broadening effect in large muscle groups; or on site-specific muscle and connective tissue, deep transverse friction applied to reduce adhesions and to help create strong, flexible repair during the healing process.

Trigger Point / Tender Point Massage

Combined positioning and specific finger or thumb pressure into trigger/tender points in muscle and connective tissue, to reduce the hypersensitivity, muscle spasms and referred pain patterns that characterize the point. Left untreated, such trigger/tender points often lead to restricted and painful movement of entire body regions.

Lymphatic Massage

Stimulation of specialized lymphatic-drainage pathways, which improves the body¹s removal of edemas and effusion.

The Benefits of Sports Massage

Regular sports massage can:

  • reduce the chance of injury, through proper stretching and event preparation, and through deep tissue massage;
  • improve range of motion and muscle flexibility, resulting in improved power and performance;
  • shorten recovery time between workouts;
  • maximize the supply of nutrients and oxygen through increased blood flow;
  • enhance elimination of metabolic by-products of exercise.

How Does Massage Help?

Recovery

Therapeutic massage helps the body recover from the stresses of strenuous exercise, and facilitates the rebuilding phase of conditioning. The physiological benefits of massage include improved blood and lymph circulation, muscle relaxation, and general relaxation. These, in turn, lead to removal of waste products and better cell nutrition, normalization and greater elasticity of tissues, deactivation of trigger points, and faster healing of injuries. It all adds up to relief from soreness and stiffness, better flexibility, and less potential for future injury.

In addition to general recovery, massage may also focus on specific muscles used in a sport or fitness activity. For example, areas of greater stress for runners and dancers are in the legs, for swimmers in the upper body, for tennis players in the arms. These areas are more likely to be tight, lose flexibility, and develop trigger points.

Over-training

Adequate recovery is also a major factor in avoiding the over-training syndrome. Over-training is characterized by irritability, apathy, altered appetite, increased frequency of injury, increased resting heart rate, and/or insomnia. It occurs when the body is not allowed to recover adequately between bouts of heavy exercise. Therapeutic massage helps you avoid over-training by facilitating recovery through general relaxation, and its other physiological effects.

Trouble spots

You may also have your own unique trouble spots, perhaps from past injuries. A massage therapist can pay special attention to these areas, monitor them for developing problems, and help keep them in good condition. An experienced massage therapist can also compliment treatment received from other health care professionals for various injuries. You may also have your own unique trouble spots, perhaps from past injuries. A massage therapist can pay special attention to these areas, monitor them for developing problems, and help keep them in good condition. An experienced massage therapist can also compliment treatment received from other health care professionals for various injuries.

Three Areas of Sports Massage

Sports massage may involve prevention and maintenance programs, on-site treatment before and after an athletic event, and rehabilitation programs for those who are injured during the program.

Maintenance Massage

An effective maintenance program is based on the massage therapist's understanding of anatomy and kinesiology, combined with an expert knowledge of which muscles are used in a given sport and which are likely candidates for trouble. By zeroing in on particular muscle groups and working specific tissues, the sports massage therapist can help the athlete maintain or improve range of motion and muscle flexibility. The overall objective of a maintenance program is to help the athlete reach optimal performance through injury-free training.

Event Massage

Pre-event

Pre-event sports massage is given within the four hours preceding an event to improve performance and help decrease injuries. It is used as a supplement to an athlete's warm-up to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It is normally shorter (10-15 minutes) than a regular conditioning massage, and focuses on warming-up the major muscles to be used, and getting the athlete in a good mental state for competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Certain massage techniques can help calm a nervous athlete, and others can be stimulating. Pre-event. Pre-event sports massage is given within the four hours preceding an event to improve performance and help decrease injuries. It is used as a supplement to an athlete's warm-up to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension prior to competition. It is normally shorter (10-15 minutes) than a regular conditioning massage, and focuses on warming-up the major muscles to be used, and getting the athlete in a good mental state for competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Certain massage techniques can help calm a nervous athlete, and others can be stimulating.

Inter/Intra-event

Inter- and intra-event massage is given between events or in time-outs to help athletes recover from the preceding activity, and prepare for the activity coming up. It is also short, and focuses on the major muscles stressed in the activity. Inter- and intra-event massage is given between events or in time-outs to help athletes recover from the preceding activity, and prepare for the activity coming up. It is also short, and focuses on the major muscles stressed in the activity.

Post-event

Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length. Post-event sports massage is given after a competition and is mainly concerned with recovery. It is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Recovery after competition involves not only tissue normalization and repair, but also general relaxation and mental calming. A recovery session might be 15 minutes to 11/2 hours in length.

Rehabilitation Massage

Even with preventive maintenance, muscles cramp, tear, bruise, and ache. Sports massage can speed healing and reduce discomfort during the rehabilitation process. Soft tissue techniques employed by sports massage therapists are effective in the management of both acute and chronic injuries. For example, adding lymphatic massage to the "standard care" procedure in the acute stage of injury will improve control of secondary, hypoxic injury and enhance edemous fluid removal throughout the healing cycle. Trigger point techniques reduce the spasms and pain that occur both in the injured and "compensation" muscles. Cross-fibre friction techniques applied during the subacute and maturation phases of healing improve the formation of strong and flexible repair tissue, which is vital in maintaining full pain-free range of motion during rehabilitation. In all cases, such massage techniques are employed in collaboration with other appropriate medical care. For example, encouraging circulation around a bruise, but not directly on it, through the use of compression, cross-fibre techniques or even long, deep strokes is only used after appropriate medical referral and diagnostics indicate that there are no clots formed in the area which may embolise.

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