Sports Injury: Heal It Faster; 
Prevent It with Massage Therapy


A sports injury can be very discouraging and costly for an athlete! I know that very well, coming from a family of a marathon runner, and sponsored cycling athletes. You can put so much time, energy and effort into a planned competition, but if an injury comes before the big event, it is all wasted. Massage can help prevent and heal those injuries.

Sports massage enhances flexibility, general health, and recovery from training, competition and injuries.

There has been some research done that showed that massage provides muscle recovery, even more than rest itself does. However, "more research is needed" since not all research has proven this out.

In one study, "petrissage" massage "improved recovery from muscle stiffness and perceived lower limb fatigue". You can read that brief BJSM abstract here, then come back here.

Research does appear to agree that feeling of fatigue is diminished with sports massage. Massage reduces the intensity of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as shown in this research abstract . So, "get your rest", but don't forget to get your massage.

Massage, in general, helps the athlete to have a healthier emotional state that can greatly optimize performance, aside from the physiological advantages. All of these benefits support optimal sports performance, as well as healing and prevention of an injury. Massage therapy simply makes greater enjoyment of training and the sport itself possible.

If you take a look at the list of benefits of massage for athletes below, you will easily see why sports massage is beginning to be in such demand among recreational, amateur and professional athletes.

Specific Benefits of Massage for Athletes

Sports massage:

• Improves fluid circulation
• Decreases recovery time from hard performances and workouts
• Enhances muscular relaxation and relaxation in general
• Causes formation of strong, mobile scar tissue
• Helps with connective tissue “organization” (see page on Structural Integration) 
• Improves balance within body structure and function
• Provides increased mental alertness and clarity (focus) 
• Deactivates trigger points (see page on trigger point therapy) 
• Encourages greater overall energy and stamina
• Promotes greater flexibility and range of motion
• Reduces and even prevents sports injury
• Shortens time of sports injury (speeds healing)
• Provides pain reduction
• Enhances body awareness

The Flying Finns!

Sports injury treatment and athletic performance enhancement by massage is credited first to the ancient Greeks. More recently In the 1900s, the Finnish School of Massage developed massage for athletes using Swedish Massage strokes. Their own Paavo Nurmi (the first “Flying Finn”) won five Olympic gold medals in 1924. He only had thirty minute breaks between events and claimed his massage treatments were an integral part of his training.

Then, Russian Sports Massage was developed in the late 1920s. It was taught at the Central Institute of Physical Therapy, Moscow. This began the extensive sports massage research that has continued ever since.

Frankly, professional massage therapy took a back seat to newly discovered pharmaceutical treatments that took center stage in the early 20th century. A decline in the use of sports massage to prevent a sports injury and enhance performance occurred.

It came back with a vengeance when the second “Flying Finn”, Lasse Viren set a new world record in the10K and new Olympic record in the 5k in 1972 at the Munich Olympics. It became known that he received daily massages, sparking an interest in sports massage in the United States.

First Olympics Massage Therapist

Athletes began seeing the benefits of massage therapy to enhance performance and to prevent or heal a sports injury. After Jack Meager published his 1980 book called Sportsmassage: A Complete Program for Increasing Performance and Endurance in Fifteen Popluar Sports, massage therapists have been common on the field, court, track and training schedules of many Olympic, world class and local athletes. The 1996 Atlanta Olympics provided the first massage therapist as a medical team member.

Find a Good Sports Massage Therapist

Structural Integration (or Rolfing) therapy is an important modality for a massage therapist to know. Sports massage is not just “Swedish”, or “Russian” massage anymore. Click here for more nformation about Rolfing also known as Structural Integration.

A good sports massage therapist will be one who is mindful of the multifaceted aspects of each individual athlete to be treated. The massage therapist should treat the “whole athlete”, taking into account your sport(s) and personal abilities, as well as personal goals and aspirations in life and sport. In other words, they shouldn’t just focus on your sports injury.

Some athletes might simply wish to “finish” without suffering an injury. Others may be dependent on their sports performance to make a living. The sports massage therapist must be able to effectively serve the needs of weekend, professional, amateur and collegiate athletes.

Look for a massage therapist who understands the importance of timing the right techniques of massage therapy to your training and competition cycles, a sports injury that is limiting or threatening your goals, as well as your personal life stresses. The therapist should take your performance goals in mind when they provide sports massage.

Your sport(s) will use muscle groups in specific ways. The massage therapist must be able to understand those dynamics in order to implement a strategy of treatment, focusing on muscles used in your sport. For further discussion of integrating sports massage into your training and competition regimen click here.

Stretching to Prevent Injury

Stretching generally does not enhance performance, but does prevent injury. If, however, greater flexibility and range of motion can be obtained from stretching, then it can certainly improve the chances of optimal performance.

Stretch and warm up muscle groups (without “bouncing”) that you use primarily in your sport just to the point of tension. Then hold the stretch, avoiding pain, for 15 to 30 seconds. For a more in-depth discussion of stretching to prevent sports injury look for our future page link here.

Incorporate Massage Into Your Training

A sports massage therapist will be well trained to help you with stretching techniques. A thorough and well scheduled massage therapy routine should become a vital part of your seasonal training cycles each year. Prevent sports injury early. Scarring of tissue doesn’t heal 100%. Massage can improve the healing of a sports injury.

Start massage therapy young, if possible. Continue to take advantage of the age delaying, gravity cooperating effects of Structural Integration for sports injury and enhanced performance.

Avoiding sports injury and enhancing performance with massage therapy will help keep the hard work of athletics fun, even into old age.


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Go to Structural Inegration/Rolfing Page 

More information about Sports Massage here 

Trigger Point Massage for Injury 

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By Brenda Rowell Copyright © 2010-2016 Benefits-of-Massage-Therapy.com

Hippocrates said, "The way to health is to have an aromatic bath and a scented massage every day."



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