How Massage Is Used in Sports

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According to Geoffrey C. Goats PhD MCSP from the School of Occupational Therapy and Physiotherapy in the University of East Anglia, massage is widely seen as a therapeutic art. In fact, extensive studies have already been done to provide evidence-based data about the therapeutic and physiological benefits of massage especially in sports.

In a study conducted by Jason Brummitt, MSPT, SCS, ATC at North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, massage is widely considered as a preferred treatment. The research emphasizes three major functions of massage namely:

-To enhance the psychological readiness of an athlete.

-To help the body recover from intense competition and exercise.

-To facilitate treatment in sports related injuries.

Sports Massage Techniques:

In his book entitled ‘Handbook of Healing Massage Techniques: Classic, Holistic, and Emerging Methods,’ Benjamin PJ and Tapan FM define sports massage as a “collection of massage techniques performed on athletes or active individuals for the purpose of aiding recovery or treating pathology.” In sports medicine, three forms of massage are highlighted.

1) Effleurage Technique

This type of massage focuses on the length of the muscles. In particular, the strokes follow a certain sequence. It starts from the distal to the proximal region of the muscles. Most of the time, the strokes are generally light and gentle.

2) Petrissage Technique

Unlike the effleurage technique, petrissage involves a combination of different strokes like wringing, kneading, and scooping. Depending on the patient, the therapist can apply deep pressure during a petrissage massage.

3) Deep Transverse Friction Massage (DTFM)

Also commonly known as cross-friction massage, DTFM employs crosswise motions in order to target a particular muscle in the body.

Why Athletes Need A Massage?

Massage has long been considered as greatly beneficial most especially in terms of improving blood pressure, psychological readiness, and even “perception of recovery.” Physical and psychological readiness help an athlete prepare for a competition. This is the reason why many athletes always perform various types of stretching exercises, mental imagery drills, as well as game simulations. Furthermore, a relaxing massage is also useful in reducing anxieties. Most important is the fact that a good massage prepares the muscles for the intense physical activity during the competition. Athletes and sports coaches use massage because of the following reasons:

Flexibility – Many athletes believe that flexibility is a crucial aspect in sports training. The primary reason is that flexibility helps reduce risks of major injuries during the competition. Moreover, it also enhances the overall performance. The School of Applied Sciences in the University of Glamorgan in United Kingdom conducted a study that also confirms the positive effects of massage on flexibility.

Strength – Athletes can also benefit from a massage especially when it comes to their physical performance. This fact is substantiated by another research, which was conducted by Brooks CP. et.al. at ACT College, Alexandria. According to the study, even a five-minute massage can significantly improve the power-grip performance of athletes.

On the whole, massage remains valuable in sports not only for its numerous therapeutic effects but also for its psychological benefits.