Sports Massage is one of the most common listed practices for therapists and studios. As a matter of fact, if you take a look at our Massage Directory (HERE) you will notice how many therapists list it as a practice.
Nonetheless, it is very hard to actually define what Sports Massage really is, since it varies not only from one MT to another, but from an athlete to another, a client to another and a goal to another. Let us explain: sports massage in theory (we will define it below) will help an athlete or a client achieve specific goals, improve in their athletic performance. However, it can happen before an event, or after, meaning it has to be done differently. See? It’s not that simple
Sports Massage can be defined as the application of specific techniques, range of motion and flexibility procedures, strength training principles and even hydrotherapy protocols to achieve a specific goal for an improved athletic performance or healing.
Key Aspects Of Sports Massage
Where to start? Well, the starting point is when you are treating the client, is it before a sports event, after one, or during a recovery period such as from an injury. For example, if it’s during a recovery period, because the athlete has suffered an injury, then the next two steps (the what and the why, or the techniques and the goals) will change as if you were dealing with an athlete before a marathon.
Then we go into the what, as to “what are we treating?” which leads to what Technique to use.
If we still focus on the example of an injure client, at this point you can do many different techniques as to improve their healing and situation: effleurage, cross-fiber friction and compression, depending on the injury they have and the recovery they need.
The third key aspect is the why, meaning the goal.
If the goal is to increase flexibility, you will be doing flexibility protocols, or if you want to improve strength then once again the work changes. Meaning, the when determines pretty much the entire goal of the massage itself.
A last example is if you are working before a sports event, say a race, a marathon, or a game. You will want to increase the blood flow, warm up the muscles and improve the flexibility of the athlete, so techniques such as friction, compression or stretching are a must.
There is a fourth aspect, and that is the where.
Therapists tend to exclude the where from the meaningful aspects, but it counts and a lot. Some therapists have had to deal with athletes during events, meaning they have to apply fast recovery or maintenance massages on the sidelines.
Others deal with the athletes a few hours before or after an event and maybe have the comfort of a studio, a quiet workplace, or at least a room where they can rest the client or athlete on a massage table on a smooth, flat, steady surface.
What we mean is that the where influences a lot the massage table you will use for sports massage. If you are in a studio, a heavy duty and steady massage table will get the job done, as it’s easy to handle it, and it can support a lot of weight for the deep tissue pressure you will likely apply.
However, if you will be on the sidelines of a sports event, you will want a lightweight massage table, and why not one with specific legs and technologies such as the Big Foot leg platforms that the Stratomaster Air Table has, which ensure the massage table to be stable and steadier even on uneven surfaces, making it perfect for sports massage.
With those for key aspects covered, it is time to take a look at the benefits of sports massage.
Benefits of Sports Massage
Delay Muscle Soreness: If you are dealing with an athlete on the sideline of a sports event, the onset muscle soreness can be delayed. How? Well, through the appropriate techniques, the blood circulation and lymph flow are improved, which prevents the muscle fatigue and can delay the soreness to even a 30%.
Pain Reduction: Probably the most obvious, sports massage can reduce the pain from an injury or an extensive effort. It also increases the recovery, by delaying the soreness and actually relaxing the muscle with increased blood flow.
Increase Flexibility: Following flexibility protocols and with many maintenance sessions, you can help your client increase flexibility of their muscles and joints. Stretches, flexibility protocols and relaxing the muscles can help with the flexibility.
Revitalize Muscles: Sports massage can increase or improve tissue pliability, as well as improving the strength of it. What this can cause is a revitalizing of the muscles, as to have them recover faster, perform better, and stronger.
Prevent Injuries: Very related to the flexibility and recovery, sports massage, if done on a regular basis, can help decrease the possibility of muscle related injuries in athletes.
As you can see, Sports Massage is quite much more complex than expected, and it is actually a very broad technique. It is not something as specific or standard as other therapies, it requires very different treatments based on the moment, the goal and the place.
Nonetheless, it is still a very beneficial practice that can help many MTs truly make a difference in the life of their clients.