An essential tool in the treatment, prevention and recovery from sports injuries.

It’s an all too predictable and commonplace element in sport all over the world – soft tissue injuries. So, inevitably, part of a sportsperson’s recovery from soft tissue injury should involve some form of sports massage.

Sports massage originated in Europe around 1900, when the Finnish School of Massage developed the first system of sports massage.

It’s not surprising then that the first well-known use of sports massage was at the 1924 Paris Olympic Games where Finnish runner, Paavo Nurmi (one of the “Flying Finns” and often considered the finest Track and Field athlete of all time), won five gold medals, including two on the same day in the 1500 metre and 5000 metre events, with only a 26-minute break in between.  He took a personal massage therapist with him to the event, whom he partially credited with his success. Part of a European athlete’s daily routine is to receive regular sports massages to assist in performance and endurance, aid in recovery and prevent injury.

In most cases, sports massage is not meant to be a relaxing massage and can often be quite vigorous in its application.  It is also a bit of a misnomer in that it is not just for those engaged in sporting activity, but for anyone who undertakes physical activity.  It works best when used before and after physical activity.

Before physical activity, sports massage can help to warm the muscles and assist in increased blood flow to the muscles.  After activity, a sports massage is beneficial in assisting in the recovery process, lymphatic drainage and can also aid in rehabilitation should the athlete have sustained an injury during physical activity.  It also promotes muscle relaxation and can be used to relieve swelling.

Often sports massage is used on ‘tight’ muscles – that is, muscles which are not necessarily sore but are still limited in their range of movement and motion.  Sports massage is a valuable tool in treating these muscles, as left unattended ‘tight’ muscles can lead to further injury.  When treating soft tissue injury, a sports massage therapist must be able to identify any circumstances in which sports massage is contraindicated, e.g. a torn hamstring or a corked thigh.

As a sports massage therapist, remember to advise your clients to ‘warm up’, then stretch, before they undertake physical activity.  It is also important that you advise them to do stretching as part of their ‘warm down’ procedure after their physical activity to reduce the risk of developing soft tissue injuries and to receive sports massage as part of their ‘warm down’, as “prevention is better than cure”.