Sports Massage is a special form of massage and is typically used before, during, and after athletic events. The purpose of the massage is to prepare the athlete for peak performance, to drain away fatigue, to relieve swelling, to reduce muscle tension, to promote flexibility and to prevent injuries.
A Sports Massage Therapist must understand the process of athletic training and competition, the physiology of muscle function and what happens when someone trains and competes, and the kinesiology of movement for particular sports.
Each type of sport has different demands on the players. Each sport uses muscle groups in a different way. Sports massage is designed to address those specific concerns and may differ according to the sport the athlete plays. Sports massage can be aimed to help heal strained muscles and allow healthy ones to reach peak performance and maintain it while minimizing the risk of injury.
Three areas of Sports Massage
There are three areas of Sports therapy massage: Maintenance massage, Event massage, Rehabilitation 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 helps 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.
Pre- and post-event massage therapy are tailored for distinct purposes. Pre-event massage 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 also improves tissue pliability, readying the athlete for top performance. Post-event massage, on the other hand, is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic build-up that occur with vigorous exercise. Various sports massage techniques enhance the body’s own recovery process, improving the athlete’s return to high-level training and competition, and reducing the risk of injury.
Even with maintenance massage, muscles may 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, edema formation and enhance lymphatic uptake of fluid throughout the healing cycle. Trigger point techniques reduce the spasms and pain that occur, both in the injured and “compensation” muscles. Cross-fiber 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.
Benefits of Sports Massage
Regular sports massage can:
- reduce the chance of injury, by relieving stress points in muscles, before they result in restrictions or spasm;
- 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;
- facilitate the body’s regular processes for recovery from exercise;
- decrease performance anxiety and sharpen mental focus.