Sports Massage – Pre/Post/Training massage

Pre-event Guidelines

Sports Massage is basically applying the principles of bodywork and massage to athletes.  What makes it different is that athletes have very special needs. 

 Knowing the person and the sport is what will make your treatment of greater value.

This is a short, specific treatment given immediately before ( 30 minutes- 24 hours before) and event. The goal of treatment is to increase the circulation, flexibility and mental clarity of the client  to improve performance.  It does not replace the athletes warm up but complements it.  It is important to know your clients sport or activity and what muscles are used the most.  It is also necessary to assess the athlete’s condition and needs prior to treatment. Factors such as temperature, nervousness, fatigue, hyperactivity are considered before giving a treatment.  If the client is cold more warming things need to be done.  If they are already warmed up, focus on flexibility.  If they are nervous some soothing strokes may be called for.

The amount and depth of treatment is the most important key to effective treatment.  Deep tissue work is contraindicated as it may cause too much of an increase in flexibility and it may interfere with the clients timing and strength.   Keep the goal in mind at all times.

  1.  Use brisk invigorating variations of sport massage strokes to specific muscles as per sport
  2. Create long lasting hyperemia
  3. Use gymnastics, stretching, PNF if athlete has used them before.
  4. Begin light and gradually increase pressure and speed
  5. Energize or calm down as needed
  6. Do Not comment on tightness at this point-it may be too negative and depressing
  7. If an athlete is unprepared or injured or tight to the point of causing an injury, bring this up with caution
  8. Consider the time remaining before and event.  If it is 30 minutes, give a really short (5-10 minute) treatment.  If it is the day before, a little longer treatment is ok.
  9. Be aware of how much a client has had massage previously to an event. It will determine how their body will react to the treatment.
  10. In endurance sports, concentrate on overall energy and flexibility.
  11. In strength related sports, concentrate on the specific muscles used.
  12. Do Not Treat Stress points/Triggerpoints:  Use only 24 hours before competition and only if the athlete is used to having such a treatment before and event.

Post Event Guidelines

Post Event treatments are done immediately after an event, usually within 1-2 hours.  The goal of the session is to flush the tissue of the lactic acid and other by products of metabolism.

The intent is to cool down the body and return it to homeostasis.  Muscle tension, cramping, and inflammation are also addressed.  Remember anyone competing in an event usually gives it their all in terms of effort and are left extremely fatigued.  Massage can reduce the recovery time of such an effort.

Ask the Athlete these questions to assess the condition of the person:

  1. How much water have you had since the event?
  2. How did you do in the event?
  3. Are you hurt or feeling tension anywhere?
  4. What do you want worked on?
  5. Do you feel hot/cold?
  6. Is there another event after this?

Treatment Suggestions:

  1. Use light draining strokes moving toward the heart: concentrate on moving fluid out of there.
  2. Use jostling or vibration
  3. Use general compression
  4. Start lightly and gradually apply more pressure
  5. Use gymnastics to assess the joint range of motion: Do Not Do active resistive exercises on tired muscles
  6. Use gentle compressions and light circular friction to aid in circulation and reduce spasming
  7. Use effleurage and pettrissage for lymph drainage
  8. You may not be able to use oil or lotion so keep that in mind.

Things to watch for during Post Event Treatments:
Definition: When the rate of heat production exceeds that of heat loss for a sufficient period of time, resulting from inadequate fluid replacement or from failure of the thermoregulatory systems of the body
Heat Exhaustion
Signs/Symptoms: Headache, nausea, hair erection on upper arms and chest, chills, unsteadiness, fatigue, skin cool and pale, sweating, dizziness, thirst

Treatment: Refer to medical aid unit to be placed in a cool environment and allowed to “sip” water.

Heat Stroke- Failure of the thermoregulatory systems: Extreme Emergency
Signs/Symptoms: incoherent speech, acute confusion, aggressiveness, rapid unconsciousness, absence of sweating (ocaisionally sweating), weakness, irrational behavior

Treatment:  Refer to Medical Unit : Decrease the body temperature immediately with cold compresses to the head and neck, alcohol rubs, place in cool environment
Thermal Stress Conditions:

Hypothermia-  the rate of heat production is exceeded by heat loss: unable to maintain adequate core temperature: can be worse on cool, wet windy days.

Signs/Symptoms:  shivering, euphoria, appearance of intoxication:  shivering may stop as core temperature drops even more.  Lethargy, muscle weakness followed by disorientation, hallucination, combative behavior, unconsciousness

Treatment:  Refer to Medical aid unit:  Restore body warmth with protective covering and surface friction.  Remove wet clothing and move to warm environment.

Definition:  complete muscle spasm without complete contraction of the fibers accompanied by intense pain
Causes: fatigue, dehydration, electrolyte imbalance ( calcium, potassium, magnesium), muscle strain, injury

Treatment: Bring origin and insertion of muscle closer together. Avoid further spasm.  Direct pressure may also help. Ice massage, replace fluids and electrolytes.

 Training  Guidelines

Training massages are given throughout the training stage of athletic performance.  An athlete will have an event in mind and begin a regimen of training as needed to reach that goal. 

They begin with building a base of strength and endurance and continue to attain maximum performance level.  Massages can be given before or after a workout depending on the needs of the athlete. Treatments are geared toward the areas of highest stress during the workout.  Each sport varies as does each athlete’s stress points.

Benefits of Massage for Athletes in Training:

  1. Faster recovery from micro damage and trauma from workouts
  2. Increase in flexibility and range of motion
  3. Relieve fatigue and rejuvenate
  4. Reduces the strain of repetitive motions
  5. Reduces  the healing time of injuries

General Guidelines:

  1. The main goal is to keep an athlete injury free.  What do you need to do to accomplish this?
  2. Find out what their schedules are like.  Do they lift weights, run, stretch, drink enough water?
  3. Are they doing more strength training, endurance training or both?  Are they sore from tightness or lactic acid build up?

Massage before a workout guidelines: Massage before a workout can make a athlete feel weaker and unmotivated.  They may not even want to do their workout after the session.  Be sure to know your clients needs before proceeding and warn them as to the effects of such a treatment.  Once you get to know your clients schedule and training methods, you will be better able to determine if a session should be done before workout or after a workout.

  1. Find out when they last worked out and what they did in the workout. What areas are tight, fatigued or over stressed
  2. Check to see when they will be working out. That day?  A few hours away? The next day? The time may influence the type and length of massage session.
  3. Work to increase flexibility and range of motion.
  4. Know your athlete’s event.  Ask them. They know where they hurt and take the most stress.
  5. Look at your client’s overall body alignment to determine areas of higher stress.
  6. If they are fatigued you may want to use more effleurage and other strokes to drain lactic acid build up.  If they are tight, you may want to use Trigger point methods.

Massage after a workout guidelines:

  1. Find out what they did today and provide treatment accordingly. How did they feel today? When is their next workout?
  2. Do they need flushing out or relief from tightness?
  3. Are there other areas not directly involved in their activity that may be bothering them?