Sports Massage Therapy

What is Sport Massage?

Sport massage is a form of massage that utilizes special techniques applied with specific time parameters to help athletes prepare for optimal performance during training and competition. There are several stages of application depending on the stage of training/competition the athlete is in. These stages include:

• Pre-event sport massage (off-site)
• Pre-event Warm-up Sport Massage
• Pre-event Performance Sport Massage (on-site)
• Inter-event Sport Massage
• Post-event Cool-down Sport Massage (on-site)
• Post-event Sport Massage (off-site)
• Restoration (Recovery/Recuperation)
• Conditioning (Training/Maintenance)
• Rehabilitation

The techniques of sport massage are applied with purpose. Their intent is to create physiological effects that result in therapeutic outcomes, which translate into performance enhancement.

Overall Sport massage is an integral part of an athletes training and competition program. It complements all other health care approaches as well as provides the following benefits:

• promotes free and synchronized movement
• targets underlying causes of problems
• creates a synergy between protection and performance
• prevents “preventable” injuries
• promotes an overall body balance

What Makes Sport Massage Therapy Different From Other Types of Massage Therapy?

Some techniques used for sport massage will be familiar to someone who practices massage therapy on a daily basis. Other techniques are specifically designed to prepare an athlete for optimal performance both physically and psychologically, as well as assist the athlete’s recovery to a state of homeostasis after hard training and competition. Techniques are only part of what makes sport massage different, the other is the environment in which the massage skills are applied. The demands of this environment are as follows:

• knowledge of general massage therapy application and specialized knowledge in specific sport massage techniques
• specialized knowledge of the phases and timings involved with specific technique applications
• a broad knowledge base in exercise physiology, sport nutrition, sport psychology and sport biomechanics
• knowledge of adjunct protocols( stretching, hydrotherapy, cryopathy, strength and cardiovascular training principles)
• team work involving everyone helping the athlete achieve their goal

The application of techniques is also a differentiating factor in sport massage from regular massage therapy. Techniques are applied in a firm and more dynamic manner. With healthy athletes, you are dealing with muscle quality and a psychological state that is different from the general population due to healthy diet, regular training sessions and the fact that they are participating in organized competition. A sport massage therapist needs to know what techniques should be used for a given condition, they need to know how to select and use a technique to achieve a desired result.

Techniques alone do not make sport massage therapy a speciality. It is the combination of knowing how to work with a goal oriented athlete, in a sport setting, using specialized techniques that makes sport massage an in-depth, engaging work environment; and separates it from the work for a general
massage therapy setting.

Benefits of Sport Massage:

Physiological Effects
- increased blood flow in the muscles
- reduced muscle tension
- reduced pain and swelling
- reduced healing time from acute injuries
- improved tissue pliability
- reduced risk for muscular and tendinous injury
- training to full physical potential
Psychological Effects
- Pre-event: techniques designed to psychologically stimulate and prepare the athlete for performance
- Post-event: techniques are designed to
psychologically calm an athlete, returning them to a balanced emotional state for optimal healing
Phases and Timings of Sport Massage Application:
Conditioning (training/maintenance)
up until 2 days before event
Pre-Event (off-site)
1-2 days before event
Pre-Event Warm-up
1 hour-1 day before event
Pre-Event Performance (on-site)
1 hour up until event starts
Inter-Event Massage
anytime during a break in event
Post-Event Cool Down (on-site)
from end of event until hours after the event
Post-Event (off-site)
from 6 hours until 2 days after event
Restoration (recovery/recuperation)
after the event
Conditioning (training/maintenance)
after the event
Rehabilitation from Injury
after the event
** The above are just general guidelines, other factors may override or alter these guidelines (i.e. time constraints, past experience with massage; frequency, during, intensity, and type of activity.)