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Current Trends In Sport Massage

Few athletes who use Sport Massage would doubt its invaluable role in their training regimen. Few Sport Massage Therapists would question the benefit of massage as a valuable modality in the domain of Sports Medicine. And yet, like so much else, there is an observable trend.


September 29, 2009
By Jonathan Maister CAT(C) RMT

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Few athletes who use Sport Massage would doubt its invaluable role in their training regimen. Few Sport Massage Therapists would question the benefit of massage as a valuable modality in the domain of Sports Medicine. And yet, like so much else, there is an observable trend.

Much like the modality we know as Massage Therapy, Sport Massage is evolving from the realm of anecdotal observation to science based evidence. With this comes an absolute necessity for excellent therapist education, and a natural increased respect within the sport medicine team. Massage has played an integral role in mainstream medicine since the era of the Ancient Greeks (Colt and Schatz, 1997 [1]). Hence, the irony that in mainstream Western medicine, a relatively new entity, this discipline still struggles for recognition. Eastern-based medicine and countries associated with the former Soviet Union have traditionally been more accepting of massage and manual medicine in general.

trends2.jpgResearchers, such as Beck (1999 [2]), have clearly shown that massage triggers body responses at the cellular level. Injury debris is removed and local metabolism increased ultimately replenishing nutrients and hastening the phagocytosis process – a vital aspect of sport injury recovery and as part of physiological maintenance during the athlete’s training phases.

Likewise, the research of Young (2001 [3]) indicates that massage can relieve underlying conditions by relaxing connective tissue thereby permitting greater flexibility within those tissues.

With this growing pool of research, the athletic programs at educational institutes have included massage as part of their athlete care [4].

Virtually every Canadian university has at least a part-time massage therapist on staff. The qualifications of these individuals commensurate with their responsibilities and are in concert with their peers – Sport Physicians, Athletic Therapists, and Sport Physiotherapists.

There is an increased availability of literature on Massage Therapy and Sport Massage. Some of it is good, other examples are mediocre.

However, that literature is indeed available and acknowledges that the need is there and that the information must be disseminated.

The existence of this journal and this very article proves likewise. Sport Massage courses are also accessible in greater frequency, either at the massage college level or through organizations such as The Canadian Sport Massage Therapist’s Association.

trends1.jpgMassage in the Athletic environment is increasingly standard. While no therapist duplicates the work of their colleagues precisely, there will be certain common denominators, which are universally accepted.

These pertain mainly to the tempo and length of the treatment and the depth of the manipulations. This will vary depending on the timing of the application – pre-event, post-event, between events, training phase,
competition phase, etc.

Therapists will also agree on their conduct which could impact on their athlete’s psyche. An athlete may be particularly focussed and/or vulnerable to negative comments prior to competition.

For example, the athlete will not respond well to hearing that they are riddled with trigger points.

Conversely, the athlete may be particularly pensive post-event and in no mood for conversation. Regardless, the psychological profile of an athlete is exponentially amplified compared to another patient in a standard massage scenario. And, to this, the therapist must be acutely sensitive.

A famous quote says: “There is only one certainty, things will change.” Never is this truer than for a discipline or field of study considered a science. For there is no monopoly on knowledge and in any of the sciences relating to sport in our sport focussed society, this is most relevant.

Sport Massage is in many ways an art and also an intuitive skill. Sport Massage Therapists have the wonderful opportunity to work in an exciting field, enjoy the altruistic pleasure of helping others, adhere to an ever more recognized therapeutic yet intuitive science, and enjoy the dynamics of change. I would have it no other way.

References

  1. Colt, G.H. & Schatz, H. 1997.  Massage Life, 20 (8), 52-60
  2. Beck, M.F. 1999.  Milady’s theory & practice of therapeutic massage. Albany NY: Milady
  3. Young, M. (2001, June\July) Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Prescription for Relief. Massage & Bodyworks, 73-81.
  4. Athletic Therapy Today, Vol 7, No 3, May 2002 Pg 24

Jonathan Maister is an Athletic Therapist and Massage Therapist.
He is in private practice in metropolitan Toronto, has served for many
years at the committee level for CSMTA. He is part-time faculty at ICT
Kikkawa College.


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