The role of massage in sports is growing. It is not surprising to see sports massage therapists (SMT) at events ranging from 5K fun runs to the Olympic Games. Sports massage involves the application of therapeutic massage and stretching to assist an athlete's performance and recovery from activity. It is generally divided into three categories:
Pre Event Timing
The purpose of the pre-event sports massage is to prepare the athlete for high-intensity activity. The athlete is in the final stages of preparation and our job is to get the muscles loose without decreasing their psychological focus or causing significant physiological changes to their bodies. Two of our primary goals are to correct dysfunction and/or reduce stress. A pre-event massage is performed the day of the competition, usually between 30 minutes to 2 hours before competition, lasting for a duration of just 10-20 minutes.
Inter Event Massage
The inter-event massage is a massage performed between multiple competitions on the same day. Sports such as swimming, tennis, wrestling, track and field, softball, baseball, and volleyball. Sports which often require athletes to compete in a tournament format, with a short rest between bouts. An inter-event massage has been shown to improve muscle recovery between repeated bouts of strenuous exercise. This massage will generally have a duration of 10 minutes.
Post-Event Sports Massage
The purpose of the post-event sports massage is to help the athlete to recover from their high-intensity exercise such as a competition they have just finished, or a hard training session. It is typically given anywhere from 30 minutes up to 24 hours after competition or activity, generally lasting for 30 minutes. A few of the benefits include improvements in circulation assisting in the recovery of diastolic blood pressure after high-intensity exercise to pre-exercise levels. Reduction in muscle tension through stretching and massage. And finally there is a calming effect where it has been shown to improve the perceived fatigue level of the athlete, enabling them to generate more power in repeated exercise tests.
This information comes from an article written by Earl Wenk ATC CSCS NCTMB. He has over 15 years of experience in the field of sports medicine, working as both a certified athletic trainer and massage therapist. He works with athletes of all ages and skill levels from recreational runners to Olympic medalists.