What is Sports Massage?
Sports Massage is a deep tissue massage – often around the joints – meant to treat identified muscle groups that are specifically used for particular sporting events. Massage therapy focuses on muscle systems relevant to that particular sport.
Sports massage is designed to enhance athletic performance and recovery. There are three contexts in which Sports Massage can be useful to an athlete (no matter what kind of athlete you are!): pre-event, post-event, and injury treatment. Massage techniques for athletes aimed at either preparing the muscles and joints for athletic activity or helping in recovery from the stress and strain associated with athletics. Sports Massage consists of specific components designed to reduce injuries, alleviate inflammation, provide warm-up, etc. for amateur and professional athletes before, during, after, and within their training regimens.
So what can you truly call "Sports Massage"?
The sports massage techniques AG Massage Therapists use are generally no different than those used on any client who comes into the massage studio; many of the techniques AG Massage uses are not specifically “sports massage”, but rather Myofascial Therapy or therapeutic stretching that is applied for the complexities that specific sports demand of your muscles. The techniques alone don’t make it a Sports Massage, the most important thing that make it a Sports Massage is the approach. To be a value to our athletes as Sports Massage Therapists, we must apply these 4 areas of knowledge to the athlete’s situation:
1. The basic biomechanics of the sport our athlete is participating, to know the common areas of myofascial strain they will encounter in training and competition
2. Exercise physiology, to know what techniques can be used before, during and after competition
3. The healing process of the body, to know what techniques can be used in what stages of injury
4. Functional assessment techniques, so we can identify soft tissue structures that are not functioning properly (either short, long, or weak)
Here are what these four items look like in practice:
Biomechanics of the Sport: Let’s say I have one of my track & field athletes coming in for a recovery massage during the indoor track season in February. First off, I need to consider what event the athlete performs. The strain of sprinting is much greater on the hamstrings than for a distance runner, who will commonly have IT band issues from the tight turns on an indoor track. This is also very different than the strain encountered by a high jumper or long jumper. Understanding these factors of their specific event allows me to personalize the session to what their body needs.
Exercise Physiology: How close to competition am I seeing the athlete? A general rule of thumb is to avoid deep tissue work 2 days prior to competition and not to give athletes a relaxation massage right before their event. As with any general rule different bodies may respond differently to massage, so I discuss timing and depth of massage with each client to see what they feel works best for them.
Healing Process: Often, I will see an injured athlete soon after the injury has occurred, with the hope that I can do something to reduce their pain or shorten their recovery time. Again, educating the client is key. It would be very wrong to perform transverse friction over the site of a recent muscle strain, but there are other techniques in my toolbox that can provide benefit in the acute phases of injury, such as lymphatic drainage and positional release techniques.
Functional Assessment: If someone comes in to see me with a diagnosis of shoulder impingement, that only tells me where the injury is occurring. It is more beneficial to their recovery (and my efficiency) if I have the knowledge to perform a few simple assessment tests to determine the root cause of the dysfunction. One scenario is shortness in the pectoralis major that is pulling the glenohumeral joint anteriorly, out of it’s normal alignment. Another may be weakness in the serratus anterior that does not allow for full upward rotation of the scapula during shoulder abduction. The site of pain is a symptom, find the cause!
In applying this approach, Sports Massage is in fact a form of what we call Orthopedic Massage, but highly specialized to a subset of our population of athletes.
Working as a Sports Massage Therapist is a very rewarding experience. But to be a valuable part of the athlete’s support team it is less about learning the latest and greatest techniques, and more about knowing how and when to apply the techniques you may already know, and listening to what works for your individual clients as they may know best.
AG Massage - Licensed Massage Therapists
322 NW 5th Avenue Suite 305 • Portland, OR 97209 MAP
(503) 227-0206 • We accept visa/mastercard