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First of its kind: The Canadian Sport Massage Therapists Association

Being a second-generation member (and builder) of the Canadian Sport Massage Therapists’ Association (CSMTA), my peers and I are acutely aware of the foundation work done by the early founders of the organization: Aurel Hamran, Keri Dicki-Clark, Geraldine Barrett, Marylou Lombardi, Karen Porter, Ed Ratz, Grace Chan, Tim Janzen, Georgio Trimarchi, Tilman von der Linde and John D’Aguanno.


April 29, 2019
By Jonathan Maister


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This is not a personal narrative, but rather a commentary from someone who has had the privilege of seeing the organization’s evolution over the past 20 years (and the recent two-thirds of CSMTA’s existence).

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CSMTA members amongst other therapists present at a PRO AM hockey tournament event. 


 

The objective of the CSMTA from the outset was to provide a sport massage specialty for Canada’s athletic population and form a suitable organization for therapists with an interest in sports medicine. While massage in the sports environment is not new, the existence of a recognized stand-alone national entity geared specifically to sports massage was unique – and it still is. No parallel organization exists anywhere in the world. Other massage organizations do exist, but with a sports massage focus, the CSMTA is the first of its kind, anywhere.

The general acceptance of sports massage in Canada’s sports medicine universe was a challenge in the early years. However, with the persevering relationship of Alberta’s Aurel Hamran with Swim Canada, things did change. 

At that crucial time, Ontario-based Grace Chan had already been working with athletes at the provincial and national levels since 1983. Those pioneering experiences gleaned the foundation material regarding team dynamics, as well as the shared skills and knowledge of the international sports massage community. 

Grace and other like-minded therapists knew the value of pooled experience with specific sports massage training. With this in place, more Canadian therapists would develop the skills required for serving Canada’s athletic community. In addition to the knowledge base and manual skills, it was recognized that sport massage therapists needed endurance for long strenuous workdays. The head-space of athletes was also a strong consideration, and therapists would also have to be equipped with the skills to handle difficult situations. Finally, a versatile skill set was also a necessity; therapists would need to do more than just massage. 

Then came the realization that sports massage should be represented separately since the therapist’s skill set is so specialized (as was the client base). Sharing this vision were therapists Keri Dicki-Clark, Karen Porter and Marylou Lombardi. The years of 1985-86 were crucial: It was then that time policies and procedures, as well as other fundamentals were established. 

Over three decades, our mandates have evolved to include many different facets, with much of the further legalities and working structure organized by Geraldine Barrett. Firstly, CSMTA provides all active Canadians with access to a specialized expertise. We ensure grassroots access by providing local teams with our services. Within the clinic, our people treat the general public and utilize many of the techniques that we use with our elite athletes.

The challenge of Canada is its geography. The vast distances between our members means we have had to make a conscious effort to standardize our protocols countrywide. We’ve established a comprehensive educational component based on a specifically-developed national sports massage curriculum. Largely through the work of Kip Petch, we have a standard two-day sports massage course, presented regularly by a number of our teaching members across the country. 

Being primarily focused (though not exclusively) on soft tissue, we are specialists of touch. The nuances of tissue are very much a part of our daily work routine and the huge amount of anecdotal information gleaned from our members has resulted in a body of knowledge that reflects our innovative treatment methodology and professional development courses. 

Through our International Sport Massage Diploma Program [ISMDP (C) – largely the brainchild of Aurel Hamran], applicants can access correspondence courses that will enhance their knowledge and also provide CSMTA candidates guidance in their certification process. An all-embracing sports massage text is pending which encompasses the knowledge and experience of numerous members who have contributed to this project.

The strength of any organization is its members and in particular the continuity of leadership. A strong third generation has emerged and has stepped comfortably into various leadership roles. Regional chapters have been established and have developed to provide a presence at a provincial level. Each has their own executive team which also provides a development process for national leadership. 

The COC (Canadian Olympic Committee) relies on official expert medical provider groups such as CSMTA  to recommend suitable medical practitioners for major games. We are fully established among this community of Expert Health Care groups and our members are fully fledged participants in the process. Members apply for major games at which time a selection process is followed. Priority is given to certified therapists (designated SMT(C) ) who have passed a written and practical exam. Members who are in the process of certifying (designated SMT(CC) ) may be considered if there are insufficient certified applicants.

Prior to certification, the member requires upward of 500 hours of hands-on in a sports environment. A variety of sports is essential to maximize exposure to a host of different athlete body types and injuries. Certification applicants are graduates of a recognized Canadian Massage Therapy educational institution with a course of at least 2200 hours. Minimum 500 post-graduation clinical hours of clinical experience is also a prerequisite. Once the application process has been initiated, the written and practical examinations follow. The certification process, under the watchful eye of Remo Bucci, has also been refined over the years and reflects the work of many dedicated individuals who have contributed their skills and knowledge.

Fieldwork during the pre-certification period allows members to hone their game-day skills and interact with other health care professionals such as sports chiropractors, athletic therapists, sports physiotherapists and physicians. These provide invaluable networking opportunities but also nurture exposure to the athletic environment.

In terms of the membership, we have a reputation of being supremely professional as well as inclusive and sociable. Members of all vintage enjoy our conferences as educational as well as bonding opportunities. This past year we held our AGM and educational conference in Richmond, British Columbia and in 2019 our conference will be held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. 

Our website (csmta.ca) is an invaluable resource for members, interested RMTs and others. 

Many thanks to Aurel Hamran, Geraldine Barrett, Marie Lou Lombardi and Grace Chan for contributing their reflections for this article.


Jonathan Maister is a certified athletic therapist, RMT and sport massage therapist based in Markham, Ont. He has presented across Canada at numerous conferences and is a regular contributor to newsletters and publications for the athletic therapy and massage therapy professions.


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