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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Massage


Sports Massage Therapy

Sharon Hopkins

What is Sports Massage Therapy?

An athlete, before a performance, is under immense stress emotionally and physically and the body is also prone to injuries. Practices before the event lead to constant build-up of tension in the muscles and cause stress on joints, ligaments, tendons, as well as the muscles themselves. Apart from muscle tension, the athlete is also bogged down with fatigue and injuries which may hamper the main performance. Sports massage is the answer to emotional and physical well being for an athlete before, after and during a performance.

Sports Massage is a specific type of massage which is generally rendered before, during, and after athletic events to help prepare the athlete for desired performance, to relax the nerves and prevent injuries. This type of massage can be rendered only by a professional who has a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology and particularly the muscular and skeletal systems.

Sports Massage works deep to eliminate toxins embedded in muscle fibers, remove adhesions, and minimize scar tissue buildup. Muscle lengthening in sports massage helps restore a range of motion and overall flexibility. Sports massage also leads to improved circulation which aids better cell nutrition, greater elasticity of muscle fiber, and reduced recovery time.

Sports massage is a blend of Swedish massage and Shiatsu specifically designed to cater to the needs of professional athletes. Depending on the needs of the athlete, a variety of techniques are used including classic Swedish strokes, cross-fiber friction, pressure-point work, and joint mobilization.

Types of Sports Massage

Sports massage therapy includes pre-event, post-event, maintenance and rehabilitation techniques that promote greater athletic endurance and performance, reduced chances of injury and faster healing.


Pre-Event sports massage helps warm up the muscles by stretching them and making them flexible for optimal athletic performance. A pre-event massage also stimulates the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscle, reduces muscle tension, loosen the muscles and produce a feeling of psychological readiness. A pre -event massage is best done up to two days prior to the main event.


Post- event massage focuses on relieving muscle soreness, minimizing the effects of fatigue and reducing the stress levels in the body. It also helps reduce swelling, maintain flexibility, promote blood flow to the muscle to remove lactic acid and waste build-up and reduce cramping. This also helps faster healing.


This is more of a maintenance massage which can be done at least once a week as a regular part of athletic training programs. Preventive massage increases the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscle and helps repair small tears due to strenuous physical activity. It also keeps tissue loose so that different layers of muscle slide over each other.


Sports massage is also used as a last resort in the event of injury. Sports massage helps rehabilitate by minimizing the adverse effects of scar tissue and adhesions caused to the athlete and helps regain lost flexibility and strength.

Techniques in Sports Massage

There are three main techniques of massage frequently used in sport, namely effleurage, petrissage and frictions. Most of the massage techniques ensure the main pressure is directed towards the heart to increase the venous and lymphatic flow. The strokes also ensure that excess pressure does not cause any damage to blood vessels. While effleurage is a preparatory background stroke, petrissage allows detail work on the body in releasing tension followed by friction.

Benefits of Sports Massage

The benefits of sports massage impact the physical, physiological and psychological levels. A state of well being is achieved only when all the three aspects are in balance. Here is a compilation of the key benefits attained at each level through a sports massage:

Physical effects of massage are:

  • Deep massage causes the pores in tissue membranes to open, enabling fluids and nutrients to pass through enabling removal of waste products such as lactic acid.
  • Deep massage encourages the muscles to take up oxygen and nutrients which promote faster healing
  • Sports massage stretches muscles to release tension or stress caused due to excess physical activity
  • Sports massage helps break down scar tissues which usually affect the muscle, tendons and ligaments which impair performance.
  • Sports massage helps improve elasticity of tissues. Physiological effects of sports massage are:
  • Sports massage helps reduce pain.
  • Muscles are relaxed after a sports massage Psychological effects of sports massage include:
  • Reduced levels of anxiety and stress caused due to relaxed muscles and nerves.
  • Sports massage stimulates a sense of well being and health.

Sports Massage Therapist

A sports massage therapist must be trained & certified in Sports massage therapy from a school accredited by the American Massage Therapy Association/Commission on Massage Training Accreditation/Approval (AMTA/COMTAA) or their State Board of Education. A professional therapist may also have completed an additional training program approved by the AMTA National Sports Massage Certification Program. Many sports massage therapists also complete the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.

Other Suggestions

People who suffer from the following conditions or disorders should consult a physician before under going a sports massage:

acute infectious disease
heavy bruising
cancer /hernia
high blood pressure
inflammation due to tissue damage
varicose veins and certain skin conditions
Open wounds
Muscle ruptures or Tendon ruptures
Burns, Chilblains and Broken bones
Rheumatoid Arthritis and Gout
Myositis ossificans
Artificial blood vessels
Bleeding disorders such as hemophilia

Sharon Hopkins manages sites related to Massage Health Therapy and explains Sports Massage Therapy in this article. She also writes for Aromatherapy, Yoga besides many other health related sites.

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