Some professional athletes swear by sports massage to allow them to recover from their heavy training schedules or prepare them for a competition. Here are some ways that massage could be incorporated into your training and competition schedule.
Training – Incorporating regular massage into a training schedule allows athletes to improve their everyday performance as it can reduce tension, increase flexibility and improve the range of motion in certain joints, thus reducing the chance of injury. Sports massage also helps athletes to recover for their next session by promoting blood flow to damaged muscle tissue, as well as simply being a welcome mental break for athletes with a busy training and competition schedule. A 2010 study involving 53 participants demonstrated this by showing how those people who received a massage experienced a large decrease in the hormone arginine-vasopressin, which is found to increase with stress and aggression. The participants who received massage also had slightly reduced levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, and cytokine proteins, which are related to inflammation.
Before an Event – Massage Therapists are often present on site at an event to help athletes warm up and prepare both physically and mentally. Massage before an event needs to be very specific so that it warms up the muscles but does not make the athlete feel lethargic or sore. It can also be used to address any problem areas where the athlete feels stiff and to reduce the chance of injury during an event through stretching and increasing the range of movement in joints. Some athletes also use massage as part of their mental preparation as it can help reduce anxiety about the event.
After an Event – Massage after an event helps an athlete to recover from physical exertion by helping muscles to relax, reducing swelling, and increasing blood flow and the movement of lymphatic fluids. Post-event massage can also be vital as the therapist may locate an injury by feeling for swelling, tenderness and tissue abnormalities. A study published by the Science Translational Medicine journal in 2012 found that a 10 minute massage promoted muscle recovery after intense exercise for the 11 male participants. The researchers found that the short massage boosted mitochondria production and reduced inflammation, among other effects. “We’ve shown this is something that has a biological effect,” says Mark Tarnopolsky, who was a co-author of the study and a professor of pediatrics and medicine at McMaster University Medical Center in Hamilton, Ontario.
Rehabilitation – Massage Therapists are not only skilled at discovering injuries by feeling a difference in muscle, ligament and tendon tissue – they can assist with the rehabilitation of some injuries by reducing swelling and promoting blood and lymphatic flow. Massage Therapists can also help to manually break down scar tissue in order to encourage the healing process. For example, sports massage therapists may commonly deal with injuries like tennis elbow, Achilles tendonitis, back and neck pain and muscle strains.
Massage can be a rewarding career path, or a beneficial addition to another career in fitness.