Sports massage is a special category of massage that is designed to help sports players in their performance and endurance. It also intends to improve the length of the client’s sports career, a consideration that is not present in normal massage. In addition, this type of massage is less focused on relaxing the client, especially for pregame massages.
There are four main times to administer sports massage: pre-event, which takes place shortly before a sports game and is aimed at preparing the athlete’s muscles for exertion; post-event, which takes place after the game and normalizes the athlete’s muscle tissue; restorative, which is administered during training to make that training effective while reducing the risk of injury, and finally rehabilitative, which helps the athlete recover from an injury. Each deployment of sports massage has its own procedure as dictated by the type of massage.
While much of massage is focused on the entire body, sports massage is more likely to focus on just one set of muscles. This is because different athletes will use one muscle group much more than the rest, and therefore they are at risk for injury in that group much more than in the others. Targeting is particularly important during rehabilitative massage, in which the massage is used to aid recovery of an injury.
Knowledge is Power
Every sport requires its own set of unnatural body movements. Within each sport, every position has a different set of responsibilities and, therefore, different requirements for their body. As a result, a sports massage therapist needs to be knowledgeable in the demands any given player will be placing on their muscles, because that determines the kind of massage they need. A catcher has very different needs from a pitcher, but at the highest levels, both will be putting a lot of stress on their muscles and both need special attention.
While there are a variety of disciplines within massage in general, sports massage draws on a special blend of techniques from just two traditions: Shiatsu and Swedish. The techniques are divided into five types: effleurage, petrissage, frictions, percussions, and vibrations. Each has its own place in a sports massage session, but in general, effleurage begins and ends a session, petrissage relaxes and loosens muscles, and frictions correct muscle grain and scar tissue, while percussion and vibration vary with the style of the massage therapist.
A registered massage therapist should at least be familiar with the goals and techniques of massage specifically related to athletics, even though it is a specialization and most massage therapists might never need to practice it. Sports massage is a field that demands a high degree of knowledge of its practitioners.