It is an undisputed fact that the sports massage offers numerous benefits to the athlete. However, the nature of these benefits and how they are bought about is less clear.
- Pre-event sports massages helps to warm up the muscles by stretching them and making them more flexible; improves circulation to the muscles; decreases muscle tension and produces a feeling of psychological readiness.
- Post-event massages helps to loosen tired, stiff muscles and promotes blood flow to the muscles. One to two hours should be allowed to pass after the event, before the massage session, to allow the dilated blood vessels to return to normal. Psychologically, it promotes a sense of well-being and relaxation, which is just what is needed after a hard work-out.
- Maintenance sports massages are usually done once a week (especially in the case of professional athletes), many of whom have their own massage therapists. These massages help to keep the athletes flexible and provide them with some degree of pain relief that accompanies high-level training.
But does the occasional or perhaps monthly sports massage offer any benefits to average athletes?
Whilst there might not be any scientific studies to prove that performance will improve or that recovery will speed up, there are enough satisfied athletes who swear by these monthly treatments - even if the massages are purely viewed as a reward to your body for a month of hard training.
Here are some of the health benefits of the sports massage:
- Improved circulation to damaged or painful tissue
- Possible reduction in muscle pain, tension and spasm
- Microstretching of muscles
- Decreased anxiety levels
- A sense of well-being and vitality
- Depending on the nature of the massage, the possibility of feeling invigorated
- Improved awareness of body, which can lead to the early detection of minor problems.
(Kathleen McQuaide, Sports Science Institute of SA)
South African Podiatry Association (SAPA)