Massages can be an important part of athletic recovery and injury prevention for people who engage in a lot of physical activity and sports.
Why Do Athletes Need Massages?
Whether or not someone is a professional athlete or a “weekend warrior”, a massage can target the specific regions of muscles that are affected by the particular type of activity. Very often, the major concern is “repetitive and often aggressive movements”. This therapy can not only help the athletes recover from their pain, but the therapy can assist the athlete in event preparation as well. It can help with “flexibility, reduces fatigue, improves endurance, helps prevent injuries and prepares their body and mind”. This can all help optimize sports performance. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research discussed how this therapy can improve “hip-flexor range of motion”, in a very short period of time. This treatment can “target muscle-tendon junctions”. Athletes receiving treatment (before or after activity) have been shown to have a decrease in muscle soreness, according to Dr. Margaret Jones, PhD.1
Massage Therapy for Athletes
Sports massages include Swedish techniques. The purpose is to stimulate circulation in the lymphatic and circulatory systems. Additional “trigger point therapy” can “break down adhesions”, also known as muscle knots. A goal of sports therapy is to increase range of motion. The four basic types of this therapy include: rehabilitative (to alleviate injury pain), restorative (to allow training with less injuries), and pre- and post-event therapies. In a pre-event session, typically lasting 15-45 minutes, the athlete receives therapy on the parts of the body that will sustain the exertion. In the post-event session, given within 2 hours after the end of the event, the therapy aims to “normalize the body’s tissues”. People who suffer from specific problem areas (i.e., runners’ knees, frozen shoulder, pulled hamstring) can be helped with this therapy, as well as a movement therapist. For some clients, this therapy will only focus on those problem areas, instead of a full-body treatment.2
The American Massage Therapy Association offers certification. There are three courses involved for these therapists: Pre and Post Event Sports Massage, Advanced Sports Massage, and Myofascial Sports Massage. Therapists going through the program have to take written and practical exams. They also receive in-field training by working at sporting events. During certification, the therapists learn special techniques, how to recognize sports-related injuries (and their severity), stretching techniques, and advanced Myofascial Sports Massage (MSM). Therapists also study the various types of sports-related injuries, such as neck strain, back pain, knee issues, shoulder pain, and foot/ankle problems.3