How massage aides athletic performance
All athletes look for an edge that can help them train more
effectively, perform better or overcome injuries quickly. Massage
can be a very important part of an athletes' regimen.
The last several decades have witnessed a dramatic rise in the
level of athletic performance. Advances in training and conditioning
techniques are allowing the human body to become a finely tuned
machine. The limits of speed, endurance and strength are pushed
every day and each year brings new world records. The leap in
performance can be attributed to any number of key factors:
- improved equipment;
- enhanced understanding of how nutrition fuels the body;
- enlightened attitudes about psychological aspects of
- scientific advances in the study of body structure and
American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) has been an active
participant in the formulation of new performance enhancement
techniques. The growing awareness and use of sports massage therapy,
a valuable addition to other manual therapies and treatments, has
become a key component of the high performance mix, as much a part
of an athlete's critical discipline as a carefully monitored diet.
AMTA and its National Sports Massage Team (NSMT) are integral parts
of the new athletic regimen from sports medicine clinics, to college
training rooms, to professional locker rooms, AMTA members are
helping athletes work their way to even greater success. What is
"I would not provide sports medicine services for any major
athletic event without massage therapists." -- Marjoirie J. Albohm,
MS, ATC Chief Athletic Trainer, 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games
Therapeutic massage increasingly is being prescribed by physicians
to complement traditional medical treatment for illness, injury and
pain as a growing body of research documents its efficacy. Massage
doesn't just feel good. It reduces the heart rate and blood
pressure, increases blood circulation and lymph flow, reduces muscle
tension/spasm, improves range of motion, and helps relieve pain,
enhancing medical treatment.
Therapeutic massage involves manipulation of the soft tissue
structures of the body. It soothes and calms, and aids in stress
reduction; and it may improve the rate at which the body recovers
from injury and illness. Working in conjunction with Duke
University, researchers at the Touch Research Institute of the
University of Miami School of Medicine have measured the bodyıs
biochemical levels after massage therapy and found a dramatic
decrease in the levels of cortisol, norepinephrine and dopamine.
Research also has measured changes in levels of endorphins and
serotonin after sports massage, which may reduce pain and contribute
to reduced levels of delayed onset muscle soreness. Sports Massage
Techniques "I have found that massage therapy can provide a very
effective adjunct to more traditional treatment of certain injuries
of intercollegiate athletes." -- Bob Grams, MS, ATC Athletic Trainer
& Assistant Professor, Seattle Pacific University Each sport and
athletic event uses muscle groups in a different way.
Sports massage therapists must be familiar with each muscle, the
muscle groups and how they are affected by the specific movements
and stresses of each sport. They also are trained in the appropriate
uses of hydrotherapy and cryotherapy. Sports massage therapy is
often based on Swedish massage and frequently includes the use of
one or more of the following techniques: Deep Swedish Massage
Muscle-specific applications of the standard effleurage, petrissage,
vibration, and tapotement techniques.
Compression Massage Rhythmic compression into muscles used to
create a deep hypremia and softening effect in the tissues. It is
generally used as a warm-up for deeper, more specific massage work.
Cross-Fiber Massage Friction techniques applied in a general
manner to create a stretching and broadening effect in large muscle
groups; or on site-specific muscle and connective tissue, deep
transverse friction applied to reduce adhesions and to help create
strong, flexible repair during the healing process.
Trigger Point/Tender Point Massage Combined positioning and
specific finger or thumb pressure into trigger/tender points in
muscle and connective tissue, to reduce the hypersensitivity, muscle
spasms and referred pain patterns that characterize the point.
Left untreated, such trigger/tender points often lead to
restricted and painful movement of entire body regions. Lymphatic
Massage Stimulation of specialized lymphatic-drainage pathways,
which improves the bodyıs removal of edemas and effusion. Added
The Contributions of Sports Massage Professional sports massage
by a qualified AMTA member can provide an athlete with several
performance advantages. Regular sports massage can:
- reduce the chance of injury, through proper stretching and
event preparation, and through deep tissue massage;
- improve range of motion and muscle flexibility, resulting in
improved power and performance;
- shorten recovery time between workouts;
- maximize the supply of nutrients and oxygen through
increased blood flow;
- enhance elimination of metabolic by-products of exercise.
Three Areas of Sports Massage Athletic trainers know that keeping
an athlete in top physical form requires a regular prevention and
maintenance program, as well as on-site treatment before and after
an athletic event. And, when strains, sprains, bruises, or other
major injuries occur, a variety of treatment modalities may be
necessary to speed healing and reduce discomfort.
Sports massage therapy can help certified athletic trainers in
all of these areas. Maintenance Massage "Sports massage bridges the
gap to optimal performance." -- Curtis Millar Sports Massage
Therapist Professional Hockey Team An effective maintenance program
is based on the massage therapist's understanding of anatomy and
kinesiology, combined with an expert knowledge of which muscles are
used in a given sport and which are likely candidates for trouble.
By zeroing in on particular muscle groups and working specific
tissues, the sports massage therapist helps the athlete maintain or
improve range of motion and muscle flexibility. The overall
objective of a maintenance program is to help the athlete reach
optimal performance through injury-free training. Event Massage Pre-
and post-event massage therapy are tailored for distinct purposes.
Pre-event massage is used as a supplement to an athlete's warm-up
to enhance circulation and reduce excess muscle and mental tension
prior to competition. It also improves tissue pliability, readying
the athlete for top performance. Post-event massage, on the other
hand, is geared toward reducing the muscle spasms and metabolic
build-up that occur with vigorous exercise.
Various sports massage techniques enhance the bodyıs own recovery
process, improving the athleteıs return to high-level training and
competition, and reducing the risk of injury. Rehabilitation Massage
"I was a little concerned, because I
couldn't really walk well...and my mobility was very, very
limited. But two days of electrostim, massaging and heat
treatments really loosened things up."
-- Michael Jordan Professional Basketball Player
Even with preventive maintenance, muscles cramp, tear, bruise,
and ache. Sports massage can speed healing and reduce discomfort
during the rehabilitation process. Soft tissue techniques employed
by sports massage therapists are effective in the management of both
acute and chronic injuries. For example, adding lymphatic massage to
the "standard care" procedure in the acute stage of injury will
improve control of secondary, hypoxic injury and enhance edemous
fluid removal throughout the healing cycle.
Trigger point techniques reduce the spasms and pain that occur
both in the injured and "compensation" muscles. Cross-fiber friction
techniques applied during the subacute and maturation phases of
healing improve the formation of strong and flexible repair tissue,
which is vital in maintaining full pain-free range of motion during
In all cases, such massage techniques are employed in
collaboration with other appropriate medical care. For example,
encouraging circulation around a bruise, but not directly on it,
through the use of compression, cross-fiber techniques or even long,
deep strokes is only used after appropriate medical referral and
diagnostics indicate that there are no clots formed in the area
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-- Benny Vaughn ATC, CSCS Atlanta School of Massage
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