What is Sports Massage?
Sports massage focuses on prevention and healing of injuries. It is designed to help athletes prepare for optimal performance, recover from sporting activities and to assist and maintain function and performance throughout training. Furthermore it has become a very popular therapy for non sporting people as a beneficial addition to improve or maintain health and well-being.
Physiological & Psychological
Benefits of Sports Massage
The physiological and psychological benefits of sports massage can assist in a variety of ways such as:-
Reduces muscular tension
Helps to relieve aches and pains that may arise from stress, poor posture or movement dysfunction
Prevents increased stresses due to increased training loads or intensive competition schedules
Helps maintain sports performance by preventing further injury
Stimulates blood and lymph flow to enhance recovery
It can be invigorating and energising to psyche-up the athlete before training or competition which may provide the athlete with the upper-edge over the competition
Promotes relaxation post training or competition to enhance recovery
Courtesy of Mofo Myvision4reel photography
What it involves
Sports massage involves a wide range of therapeutic massage and stretching techniques to assist and maintain performance and recovery from sporting activity. There are four different forms of sports massage based on when you give the sports massage in relation to competition
Pre-event (immediately before competition)
Inter-Event (Between competition on the same day)
Post-Event (Immediately after competition)
Therapeutic/Maintenance (During the training program)
Pre-Event Sports Masssage
Many athletes we treat make massage part of their pre-game routine as it enables them to focus. The athlete may also gain confidence over perceived muscle issues being corrected, which helps them to compete at their highest level.
Pre-Event Sports Massage is performed when the athlete is in the final stages of preparation for a sporting event. This type of massage is to prepare the athlete muscles to loosen without decreasing there psychological focus or causing significant physiological changes to the athlete’s body.
Buxton Rugby Club
Pre-Event Sports Massage is a short invigorating massage as its purpose is to stimulate the body parts that will be involved in the exertion for high intensity activity. The technique is performed in a quick up-tempo pace to psyche up the athlete before the competition utilising: Effleurage, Petrissage (kneading), Compression/Broadening, Vibration, Tapotement (percussion) and Active isolated Stretching techniques. However the intensity, depth and speed of the massage stroke will entirely depend on the sporting activity.
The therapist usually avoids applying relaxation techniques and deep tissue work prior to a sporting event-as this may relax the muscles and decrease the muscle force productivity. (1)
Pre-Event Sports Massage is not either the time to focus on any specific problems or the time to gain significant increases in flexibility as the athlete may not have adequate strength in this new range of motion. This is because Pre-Event Sports Massage is performed on the day of competition usually 30 minutes to 2 hours before a competition lasting approximately 10-20 minutes.
To improve motion or time to focus on specific problems we advise athletes that this should be saved for the Sport Therapy or Sports Massage sessions leading a few weeks up to competition to allow time to adapt to the neuromuscular control changes.
Inter-Event Sports Massage is performed between multiple competitions on the same day. Competitive sports such as tennis, swimming, gymnastics, track and field tournaments, often demand athletes to compete in an event structure, with small rests between sessions. Studies have suggested that Inter-Event Sports Massage may improve muscle recovery between repeated sessions of active exercise. (2) (3)
The major difference between Pre-Event and Inter-Event Sports Massage is duration. Pre-Event Sports Massage is between 10-20 minutes approximately whilst an Inter-Event Sports Massage lasts approximately 10 minutes. During an Inter-Event Sports Massage the therapist focuses on the athletes muscles that have been stressed to promote recovery between sessions.
Post-Event Sports Massage
The purpose of an Post-Event Sports Massage is to help promote recovery following high intensity exercise such as a competition or training session. This type of massage is usually performed post 30 minutes to 24 hours following activity or competition and lasts approximately 30 minutes.
The therapist utilises a wide range of massage techniques such as Effleurage (stroking), Petrissage (kneading), Broadening/Compression, Joint mobilisations and assisted stretching to help calm muscles down to restore normal resting lengths and to promote circulation.
The therapist avoids applying deep pressure at this time as the muscles may have experienced micro-trauma from the contractile proteins.
Benefits of Post-Event Massage
Improves Circulation - Research has suggested that myofascial massage assisted recovery of diastolic blood pressure post high intensity exercise to pre-exercise levels. This suggests that massage improves the venous return and lymphatic circulation. (4)
Reduces Muscle Tension – Following high intensity exercise muscles may remain at a higher level of tonus. Post-Event Sports massage and stretching techniques may help restore the resting tonus. Research has suggested that massage reduced muscle activity (EMG amplitude) when applied as a passive recovery technique immediately following exercise. (5)
Helps Promotes Relaxation – Post-Event Sports Massage has been suggested to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, improving the immune system (6). Furthermore research has shown that massage may promote the perceived fatigue level of the athlete. This suggests that by helping the athlete to feel recovered, it may produce increased power during repeated exercise tests. (3)
Therapeutic (or 'Maintenance') Sports Massage
The main purpose of a Therapeutic or Maintenance Sports Massage is to correct soft tissue dysfunction due to high intensity activity, training or previous competition. This type of massage is similar to a traditional massage although the therapist focuses on the muscles and movements utilised in the athletes sporting activity.
The therapist incorporates an extensive range of therapeutic interventions to help restore the normal muscle length following strenuous activity. These may include myofascial techniques, stretching and joint mobilisations. For athletes that may have sustained an acute injury Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) may be utilised to help reduce swelling, limiting time to return to sporting activity or competition. (7)
For athletes that may be performing high-intensity training, deep tissue techniques may be included; however this would be included around the athletes workout schedule throughout the week. (8)
Regular, routine massage can help injury prevention in various ways. Firstly, regular massage facilitates ongoing dialogue between athlete and therapist to discuss potential problems. It is claimed that regular massage improves the general condition of soft tissues, through enhancing tissue elasticity and pliability. Furthermore, regular massage may help prevent formation of adhesion and improve mobility of scar-tissue.
It provides the therapist the opportunity to identify any soft tissue changes or abnormalities due to signs of over training. If left untreated this could potentially progress to loss of performance or injury. Typical symptoms of incomplete recovery (over training) of the musculoskeletal system may include; joint pain, muscle pain, tendon or bursa inflammation together with a reduction in athletic performance. The power of tactile touch can be a very powerful tool towards reaching a diagnosis by means of recognising specific conditions that may require appropriate or immediate action. On occasions this may necessitate the need for early referral to other health professionals.
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Three visits to Nick in 3 weeks and to my amazement not only did I make the start line but I ran the 26 miles, non-stop in under 4 hours, without any problems with my calf muscle..
His knowledge of anatomy was incredible. ...The pain I experienced disappeared almost instantly after I left the treatment room and has been a lot better since... Thanks Nick!
Following knee surgery I went to see Nick due to his reputation working with elite athletes which was a great success.
Nick blends science and therapy perfectly together and his knowledge in anatomy is outstanding. I am now pain free and able to continue with my daily activities.
I will be recommending Nick's clinic to family and friends. Very professional and caring service at its highest.
Ex Saracens Rugby Player
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Hunter AM, Watt JM, Watt V, Galloway SD. Effect of lower limb massage on electromyography and force production of the knee extensors. Br J Sports Med 2006; 40 (2): 114-8.
Brooks CP, Woodruff LD, Wright LL, Donatelli R. The immediate effects of manual massage on power-grip performance after maximal exercise in healthy adults. J Altern Complement Med 2005; 11 (6): 1093-101.
Ogai R, Yamane M, Matsumoto T, Kosaka M. Effects of petrissage massage on fatigue and exercise performance following intensive cycle pedaling. Br J Sports Med 2008; 42 (10): 534-8.
Arroyo-Morales M, Olea N, Martinez M, Moreno-Lorenzo C, Díaz-Rodríguez L, Hidalgo-Lozano A. Effects of myofascial release after high-intensity exercise: a randomized clinical trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther 2008; 31 (3): 217-23.
Arroyo-Morales M, Olea N, Martínez MM, Hidalgo-Lozano A, Ruiz-Rodríguez C, Díaz-Rodríguez L. Psychophysiological effects of massage-myofascial release after exercise: a randomized sham-control study. J Altern Complement Med 2008; 14 (10): 1223-9.
Arroyo-Morales M, Olea N, Ruíz C, del Castilo Jde D, Martínez M, Lorenzo C, Díaz-Rodríguez L. Massage after exercise–responses of immunologic and endocrine markers: a randomized single-blind placebo-controlled study. J Strength Cond Res 2009; 23 (2): 638-44.
Fritz, Sandy. Sports & Exercise Massage, St. Louis: Elsevier Mosby, 2005.
Archer, Pat. Therapeutic Massage in Athletics, Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2007 (p.209-210).