Sports Massage – Preventing Injury and Enhancing Performance

Sports massage focuses on the individual need of the athlete and is used before, during, and after athletic events.

The purpose of sports massage is to prepare the athlete for peak performance. It alleviates muscle stress and tension, relieves swelling, drains away fatigue, promotes flexibility and prevents injury.

Aiding recovery and enhancing performance, whether you are an athlete or an occasional sports person, sports massage helps you perform to the best of your ability.

How Sports Massage Differs From Other Types of Massage

Continued overuse of the body which occurs from systematically increasing levels of training can cause minor injuries and lesions, causing imbalances in the soft tissues.

Massage has been used for many years as a healing therapy and benefits the body as a whole in a number of ways.

Sports massage works predominantly to alleviate the build up of stress and tension which occurs in the soft tissues of the body during physical activity. The approach may differ depending on the area of concern to be addressed.

Depending on the athlete’s need, the technique may involve a blend of Swedish massage and shiatsu. Three main strokes are used in sports massage. These include:

o Effleurage:

Gliding strokes with the palms, fingertips and thumbs usually carried out at the beginning and end of a sports massage session.

o Petrissage:

Kneading movements with the hands, thumbs and fingers used on deeper tissues to induce relaxation, stretch muscle fibres and mobilize fluids.

o Friction:

Circular pressure with the palms, thumbs and fingers. Used primarily for exploratory purposes or for deeper more painful movements, this stroke breaks down lesions and recent scar tissue and separates muscle fibres. Friction should only be used for short periods as longer periods can cause irritation and inflammation.

How is Sports Massage Used?
Sports massage can involve prevention, maintenance and rehabilitation and is used:-

o pre-event: aimed at decreasing injury and improving performance;

o inter-event: helping the athlete recover and prepare for the next event;

o post-event: focusing on tissue normalization and repair, promoting mental and physical relaxation.

What are the Benefits of Sports Massage?

The continual build up of tension from overuse can stress the joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles.

Resulting muscle imbalances, if untreated, can lead to discomfort and impede performance.

Sports massage benefits the athlete in many ways and is very affective for releasing muscle tension and restoring balance to the musculo-skeletal system helping athletes prevent injuries.

It is also beneficial for:-

o reducing muscle tension

o improving flexibility

o improving blood circulation & lymphatic flow

o reducing heart rate and blood pressure

o relieving pain

o assisting in the removal of metabolic waste

o sedating or stimulating nerve endings

o increasing/decreasing muscle tone and length

o assists in mental preparation

Is Sports Massage Safe?

Sports massage is relatively safe. However, as with all massage therapies there are times when sports massage could be detrimental rather than beneficial to you.

You should not receive sports massage if any of the following is present:-

o cancer

o melanoma

o haemophilia

o varicose veins, phlebitis, thrombosis

o tumours – where there is swelling, which is inconsistent with recent bruising.

o open wounds, recent bruising, muscle tears, sprained ligaments, contusions, chilblains, burns.

o infectious skin disease, bacterial infection, lymphangitis, fungal and viral infections

If in any doubt, it is advisable to consult your physician before receiving sports massage and in particular if you feel unwell, have a high temperature or have any symptoms that may require medical advice.

Why Have a Sports Massage?

Massage is now considered an integral part of most professional athletics regimes. Sport coaches and high performing athletes alike are of the belief that massage provides an extra edge.

Including regular sports massage into your conditioning program can have physiological and psychological benefits resulting in improved power and performance.

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