- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Sports massage, as defined in Mosby’s Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Health Professions is a type of massage that specializes in the prevention and treatment of injury to the body while training, participating and recovering from athletic events. An article published in the May 2003 issue of Massage Today, specifically defines massage as the application of massage techniques, hydrotherapy protocols, range of motion/flexibility protocols, and training principals utilized to achieve a particular goal when treating an athlete. A variety of massage modalities (techniques) are used to address this population. The athlete includes, but is not limited to, active and robust seniors who golf, play tennis/pickle ball, bike or swim. It may included a student athlete who participates in equine activities, rows /kayaks, plays football or soccer, or the “weekend warrior” who runs and visits the gym a few days a week. The goal of each of the aforementioned athletes are aligned in their desire to prepare the muscles for strenuous activity or assist the body in recovering from the after-effects of strenuous activity.
A study published in the 2005 Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness confirms that delayed onset of muscle soreness post event is significantly reduced with massage. Research from studies outlined in many of my previous columns have reported that massage improves circulation and blood flow, reduces muscles tension, improves lymph drainage (in order to reduce swelling), decreases muscle fatigue, prevents muscle spasms, accelerates muscle recovery, loosens and broadens muscle fibers, lengthens shortened muscles, and breaks down scar tissue and adhesions. Each of these help to achieve and maintain peak performance by augmenting physical function by relieving or preventing physical pain or dysfunction.
Michael McGuillicuddy, a well respected massage therapist, educator, and lecturer who has served as one of the Sports Massage Therapists for the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, outlines three key principals to help identify what type of sports massage to apply to a client at any given time.
1. Timing of the treatment. Is the massage applied pre-event, during the event, or post-event?
2. Technique utilized on the athlete. Should the treatment consist of long strokes or compression on the muscle with the goal of lengthening or broadening the muscles? Does the therapist employ stretching to increase range of motion, minimize contraction and adhesion in muscle fibers, or should the therapist utilize direct pressure on the muscle to release or relieve trigger or tender points? Finally, should the practitioner use friction to spread or separate muscle tissues that may tend to adhere after small tears during strenuous activity, or use vibration and shaking of the muscles to confuse the nervous system in order to relax hypertonic muscles?
3. Intention. What is the reason for the treatment? Does the individual want to warm up the muscles, relax the muscles during the event or are they interested recovery of the muscle fibers post event? Increase flexibility, improve strength, or prevent soreness?
Each component, important factors to consider, when preparing for a course of massage.
These principals would be used by the massage therapist to assess the amount of pressure to be applied, and speed at which the therapist would massage. For example a therapist might assess a light, stimulating and non specific massage on a variety of muscles for a warm up before physical exertion. They might use broader and slower strokes, so they may effect specific muscles after an event. They might employ compression or squeezing of the muscle to stretch muscle fibers, in order to prevent soreness and adhesion of muscles after an event.
Additionally, the therapist would assess whether the application of moist heat or ice would best serve the athlete as part of the treatment.
Sports massage therapists must also consider contraindications when determining whether an individual should receive sports massage or be referred out to an orthopedist or another medical practitioner for assessment. Excessive swelling or inflammation, acute strains or sprains, broken skin, and fever, are all reasons for a therapist to refer the client to a physician before proceeding with a massage.
Sports massage can be beneficial for active individuals at all stages of the life cycle and for all stages of the strenuous activity. Ongoing care for athletes, and active individuals suggest regular massage allows the body to function with less restriction, improve peak performance, and accelerate recovery time after strenuous activity.
Randi N. West, LMT, NCTMB, is a licensed and nationally certified massage therapist serving Citrus County. You can learn more about her or contact her with questions on her website www.relax-restore-replenish.com or at 305-467-3024.