Complete Guide to Sports Massage: Techniques and Benefits

There are over 80 modalities of massage therapies. Amongst them the sports massage is unique since it addresses very specific concerns and determines to some extent the performance of an athlete. A sports massage is generally administered before, during, and after a sporting event.

It utilises special massaging strokes, ice compresses, and other mechanical tools. The pressure applied is determined based on the requirements of the athlete and the type of sport being played.

Continuous exercise and sport activity can build tension and stress knots in the soft tissues. Scar tissue formation, muscle spasms, soreness, and fatigue can hamper performance and endurance levels. Exercise also builds up metabolites, which are formed during exercise in the circulatory system.

Athletes often undergo minor injuries and lesions and are left incapable of performing at their peak levels. Continuous stress also throws the endocrine system out of balance and the athlete may suffer from many hormonal imbalances.

All these conditions need attention and sports massage therapy, in conjunction with other therapies, provides an excellent way to recuperate from stress and re-energise the mind and body.

Benefits of Sports Massage

Sport of any nature involves continuous and repetitive physical activity. This builds stress and tension in the soft tissues of the body. It can often leave the sportsperson or athlete tired and unfit for performance.

Many a time, the sportsperson suffers minor injuries and lesions. Sports massage therapists can help relieve all these conditions by administering an effective sports massage.

Sports massage before an event

Before an event the sports massage therapist uses techniques to improve range of motion, improve the athlete’s stress endurance capacity, and prevent injuries. It also helps the muscles deliver their peak performance.

During a sporting event

During a sporting event, it is possible that the athlete may suffer from injuries such as sprains or lesions. If there are minor injuries, therapeutic sports massage may suffice to help bring about recovery along with the administration of minimal medication.

During such times of duress, a massage therapist can use specific techniques to relieve pain, shorten recovery time, and help the athlete if possible return to his game. Sports massage soothes the strained area and improves blood circulation to that region. It helps in reducing swelling, if any, and reduces the associated inflammation.

Sports massage after an event

A massage after a sporting event can help to stretch the muscles and prevent the formation of lactic acid which results in soreness. It helps to ensure that the muscles remain soft and pliable and that the athlete is in fine shape for his or her next sporting event.

Any sport utilises body muscles. Some utilise particular muscle sets more than others. In any case, the muscles undergo stress and need time to recover. In addition to giving them the necessary resting period, a therapeutic sports massage administered after a sporting event, not only eases the muscle stress, it reduces chances of Delayed Onset Muscle Syndrome, helps muscles recover faster, and makes them more fit for the next sporting session.

Additionally, it also restores the balance of the endocrine system, improves lymphatic and venous circulation, and helps remove the metabolic by products which are accumulated during exercise. It also helps relieve scar tissue formation, muscle spasms, and improves the overall well being of the athlete.

Sports massage techniques

Sports massage therapy involves the use of specific techniques done in a particular order and to address particular needs. Almost all these techniques involve applying pressure towards the heart to improve venous and lymphatic circulation. The three main techniques used are:


Almost any sporting massage begins with this technique. The sports massage therapists utilise the palm and fingers and moulds them into the curvature of the area being massaged. The strokes, as mentioned earlier are directed towards the heart.

The intention of using the whole palm is to have an increased surface area in contact with the athlete’s body so as to raise the body temperature to warm the tissues, increase blood supply to the area, stimulate the peripheral nerves, and relax the muscles.

It must be done slowly and the pressure must be gentle at the beginning. The pressure is increased gradually, depending on the need of the athlete and the condition which is being treated.


This involves a kneading action, which is performed on deep tissues. It helps to mobilise tissue fluids and stretches the muscle fibres for relaxation.


This technique utilises the thumb pad to apply pressure over small areas. This helps in detecting trigger points, breaks down scar tissue and lesions, separates muscle fibres, and detects minute abnormalities in the tissues. It is a painful technique, especially when it is utilised for breaking down scar tissue and lesions.

It is done for a short period of time and the person is forewarned. Using this technique for a longer period may cause inflammation of the muscles. This technique is usually used during a sports injury massage session.

In conclusion

A sports massage is a unique therapeutic massage that utilises very specific sports massage techniques. Like most massage styles, it offers a wide range of benefits. These techniques are designed to achieve specific purposes keeping in mind the nature of activity an athlete has to perform and related ailments they undergo.

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