What is a Sports Massage?

A sports massage is an assortment of different massage techniques used to best prepare an athlete for an upcoming event. The techniques used will differ depending on the timing of the massage in relation to an event or game, depending on what part of the training schedule the athlete is in and if the athlete is recovering from a knock or injury. Sports massage will be given by a qualified massage therapist.

Can anyone have a sports massage?

Yes, you shouldn’t think sports massages are only for professional sports persons. Recreational athletes will often use them to help with their performance, someone just starting an exercise regime will find a sports massage is helpful to help prevent any niggles or injuries. Someone who has spent the day in the garden may even find a sports massage useful to help them from seizing up or to help restore movement a few days later.

Can I train after a sports massage?

Yes some people find a sports massage directly before a training or even at an event to be very beneficial. Sports massage therapists are very skilled in identifying areas that are a little bit too tight or stiff and are able to loosen them up enough to get you performing at the top of your game. Generally before a game a sports massage would be a lot lighter and much faster in pace, this loosens up the muscles, increases the blood supply and gets the muscles in a state to perform at their best. When performing massages with professional athletes or sporting teams the coaches will request a massage the night before the game. They generally don’t want a heavy massage as there is the belief that this could make someone sore or sluggish on the field the next day. However this doesn’t hold true for everyone and some sportsmen prefer a heavy massage to help loosen up any particularly tight muscle. So yes you can train directly after a sporting massage, however it’s best to leave any deep tissue massage for earlier in the week to give you a few days to recover from it, especially if you aren’t used to massages or if you are unaware of the effect they have on you.

Is a sports massage painful?

Sports massage calf

Sports massages don’t have to be painful, often a pregame or post game massage will actually be quite gentle and more of a “flushing” type massage. A midweek sports massage or one when you have directed the massage therapist to work on a particular bothersome muscle, an area of muscle spasm or a very tight muscle, then the massage can indeed be a little painful. Some athletes love to have a significant amount of discomfort during a massage as they feel this gives them the best results, however everyone is different in what they like and “no pain, no gain” doesn’t hold true in massage. If you are actually in pain and you aren’t able to relax during the massage, then the massage will be more painful, it will be harder work for the therapist and you won’t get the best result from your massage

What is the difference between a sports massage and a deep tissue massage?

A sports massage therapist incorporates parts of deep tissue massage in their treatments when required, however a sports massage does not actually have to contain any deep tissue massage. If someone has a particularly tight muscle, then a sports massage therapist may deem it necessary to use deep tissue massage to help loosen up the muscle, however this isn’t necessary in every case.

How often should I get a sports massage?

How often you get a sports massage depends on your requirements as an athlete. A professional athlete such as a rugby player may get 2-3 massages a week as well as a loosen up before the game. A semi- professional or recreational athlete may get a massage every week, fortnightly or even monthly if they can self manage and have the time to work on their muscles themselves. Other athletes will present when they are feeling a bit tight after an intense training session, if they want to prepare themselves before a big event or race or to help them recover after a game or race.

How do professional athletes use sports massage to perform at their best?

Professional sporting teams have known about the benefits of getting massages for years. They find that massages are able to help them recover faster from training errors or when the workload is suddenly increased, think pre season training after a month off. They can be used to help niggles, knocks or contusions, care has to be taken with a bad contusion as too heavy massage early on could actually cause a condition called myositis ossificans when a calcium deposit ends up in the muscle and can take a long time to recover from afterwards. Massage can help with knocks or niggles or bruising by restoring blood supply to the muscle to help flush out a buildup of metabolites, then the massage can help to loosen the muscle and help return it to its appropriate length.

Preseason sports massage

Preseason is a good time to help loosen up particularly tight muscles, this is because a sports massage therapist can work harder on you and really get stuck into the tight muscle, without you having to worry about being a little tender during your next game or match.

Mid season sports massage

During the season sports massage will often be broken into postgame massage, mid week massage and pregame massage. Post game massage will be focused on helping the sports person or athlete recover from their game or race. This may mean helping to loosen up the muscles, clear up any remaining buildup of metabolites or help to reduce the effect of DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness).

Mid week massages will often be more intense and focus on a particular area or niggle that needs more attention. This may be a knock or contusion that needs to be worked out or a muscle that’s particularly tight and needs to loosen up to take pressure off a joint or to allow full range of movement again.

Pre game sports massage

Pre game massages will often be lighter and used to prepare the athlete for the game or event.

How do I get the most out of a sports massage?

In order to fully maximise the effect of your sports massage is to communicate with your sports massage therapist. Tell them what training you have been doing, what your training schedule is like and what are your areas of concern. If you have a game tomorrow or are particularly sore after a massage then the therapist needs to know this so they can go easier or build up the pressure of the massage more gradually. If you have had a bad corked thigh in a game the day before, the therapist needs to be aware so that they don’t work too hard on that area. If you have a few days off training after the massage and want a particular area worked on, then let the therapist know and they can work a bit harder during the massage.