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Sport massage conference highlights integrated approach to athlete care

EDMONTON – A multidisciplinary approach is essential to effective management of concussion in athletes, according to sports psychologist Nicolas Allen. Allen was speaking to massage therapists attending the annual conference of the Canadian Sport Massage Therapists Association (CSMTA) held in Edmonton this weekend.

October 19, 2015  By Mari-Len De

“I truly believe the only way we can help an athlete return to play is through a multidisciplinary approach,” Allen said, adding that the diversity of symptoms that present following a concussion makes differential diagnosis an important component of management as well.

Allen noted about 85 per cent of concussions typically resolve in two to four weeks, and the remaining 15 per cent would have prolonged symptoms that require the expertise of multiple practitioners for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. In most cases, long-term concussion symptoms include cognitive, vestibular, vision and emotional issues, he said.

Massage therapists, Allen said, are an important part of the multidisciplinary approach to concussion management, particularly in soft tissue treatment and management.

Also speaking at the CSMTA symposium was Sherry Robertson, a registered dietician who works with a number of Canadian elite athletes. Robertson stressed the importance of nutrition intervention for athletes.


“Athletes at elite level need individualized nutrition plan. They want to know that… it will make a really big difference in their sport,” said Robertson.

She said massage therapists, along with other practitioners within a sport medical team, are often in an ideal position to educate the athletes and coaches about the importance of proper nutrition before, during and after a competition.

Increasing interest
This year’s CSMTA conference focused on integrated approach to athletic care and also featured other speakers involved in various areas of athletic health care, including: Herb Longworth, a RMT and a sport massage certification candidate; Jennifer Dunn, a certified athletic therapist; Kip Petch, RMT and certified sport massage therapist; and Cheryl Stephenson, a registered massage therapist.

The use of massage therapy in major games has significantly increased over the last two decades and the practice is increasingly being recognized as an essential part of the sport medical team, according to Petch, who instructed a two-day course on advanced sport massage at the conference. This evolution has led to the creation of the CSMTA in 1987.

He said sport massage has three main objectives: help athletes achieve peak performance; reduce injury among athletes; and, if injury does occur, help athletes recover from an injury.

“The beauty of sport massage is that it is often done in open environments so that you can see how other people work,” Petch noted. “It’s an amazing environment to learn.”

Interest among massage therapists to venture into sport massage also increased recently. Just in the last year, more than 100 RMTs joined the CSMTA – an influx CSMTA officials attribute to the Toronto’s hosting of the Pan Am Games, which saw hundreds of volunteer massage therapists and other health care practitioners working with the host medical team. To date, the CSMTA has 238 members, according to association officials.

The 2015 CSMTA conference was held Oct. 16 – 18 in Edmonton.

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