Sports massage is reported to have many beneficial effects in athletes. Sports massage can be used pre-performance, post-performance, during training, or for rehabilitation. From elite athletes to recreational exercisers, it is a popular choice. Learn more about what it is used for and which benefits are supported by research.
What Is Sports Massage?
Sports massage is a systematic manipulation of the soft tissues of the body that focuses on muscles relevant to a particular sport. Runner Paavo Nurmi, known as the “Flying Finn,” was one of the early users of sports massage. Nurmi is said to have used sports massage during the 1924 Olympics in Paris where he won five gold medals. Jack Meagher is thought to be the father of sports massage in the United States.
Many different movements and techniques are used in sports massage. Examples of these techniques include; Swedish style massage, effleurage (stroking), petrissage (kneading), compression, friction, tapotement (rhythmic striking), vibration, gliding, stretching, percussion, and trigger points. These movements and techniques are used to try to help the athlete’s body achieve maximum performance and physical conditioning with a decreased chance of injury or pain and a quicker recovery.
Benefits of Sports Massage
Many benefits from sports massage have been reported based on experience and observation. Some are beneficial to the mind (psychological) and some to the body (physiological).
Some of the reported benefits of sports massage include:
- Increased joint range of motion (ROM)
- Increased flexibility
- Increased sense of well-being
- Decreased muscle tension
- Decreased neurological excitability (nerves more relaxed)
- Decreased muscle spasms
- Better sleep
Purported benefits that are not supported by research include:
- Increased blood flow
- Increased elimination of exercise waste products (lactic acid)
- Decreased chance of injury
- Decreased recovery time between workouts