Performance Benefits of Sports Massage

Sports Therapy Posts

Performance Benefits of Sports Massage

~ Fine-tuning your Maserati

Massage can reduce muscle fatigue and improve athletic performance

No athlete ever wants to get injured. Even a minor injury can impair performance, delay training and potentially prevent an athlete from entering desired competitions. Not only that, it can be a painful experience for both the athlete, their coach and supporters.

Ford and Maserati pictures against each other.
Would you prefer to drive a Maserati or a Ford?

Dealing with pain and limited mobility after injury can be exhausting, frustrating, and therefore worth the measures necessary to avoid an injury from occurring in the first place.

Over time, any injury will begin to take its toll on the body.  In most case, damaged tissue will repair itself over time, but when muscles are continually pushed to their limits through high-performance athletics, there is an even greater chance that an injury, especially a recurring one, will result in a permanent condition.

Massage therapy has come a long way.  From spa treatment to relaxation therapy; to specialized therapies, such as sports massage and prenatal massage; and, currently, according to recent research, massage therapy is making headway in preventative medicine, such as preventing injuries in athletes.

Let’s see how it works and what makes it so great!

What Is Sports Massage?

This type of massage is designed for active individuals and athletes. It aims to prevent and treat injuries, relieve muscle soreness, and ease pain.

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In the long term, it can help you reach peak athletic performance and keep your body functioning optimally. Despite its name, this massage style isn’t just for athletes. Anyone can reap its benefits.

Sports massage has physical, mental, and emotional benefits. It not only supports muscle repair and decreases injury risk but also improves circulation and combats stress. It’s a great way to relieve mental tension and relax after a hard workout. A good massage can restore mobility to injured muscle tissue and reduce fatigue. This allows you to train harder for longer.

Researchers at McMaster University reported that massage following an intense workout actually causes muscles to enlarge and grow new mitochondria.  Mitochondria are the powerhouses of our cells and are responsible for converting nutrients into useful energy.

For an athlete, energy is everything.

The study found that deep-tissue massage increased the size and number of new mitochondria more than exercising without massage. Increasing mitochondria can improve endurance performance by increasing the rate that muscles utilize oxygen.

To the body, oxygen is everything.

The McMaster University study also found that massage therapy increases the range of motion in muscles and decreases recovery time between workouts or athletic events.

Massage for sports injuries not only concentrates on existing injuries, but can also help prevent injuries. Massage before conditioning training helps to prevent injuries and should be administered after a warm-up session. Massage can also help to prevent common injuries when administered after a training session, as it helps to return the muscles to their relaxed state.

The better we feel, the better we heal.  For muscles, too.

Massage is beneficial to more than muscles 

Muscles might receive the greatest relief following a massage, but, most people report a feeling of pure relaxation, reduced anxiety, enhanced attentiveness, and improved mood following a massage.

Athletes may find an edge in these psychological benefits, making massage a mind and body therapy.

Various bodies of research compiled by the National Center for Biotechnology Information indicate that massage therapy:

  • Reduces heart rate.
  • Lowers blood pressure.
  • Reduces recovery time after an injury.
  • Rehabs an injury.
  • Lowers anxiety.
  • Improves mood.
  • Increases blood flow throughout the body, bringing vital oxygen and nutrients all over.
  • Relieves muscle pain and tension.
  • Improves connective tissue healing, which promotes muscle elasticity.
  • Stabilizes cortisol levels (a stress hormone, similar to adrenaline).
  • Improves muscle flexibility, which reduces and prevents injury.

And, as if all these benefits weren’t enough, research published in the International Journal of Neuroscience suggests that massage therapy improves the quality of sleep.

Do you want to drive a Maserati or a Ford Focus?

The Ford Focus is a fine vehicle, designed for economy and low maintenance.  It’s a clean, solid ride.

Then, there’s the Maserati. A masterfully engineered Italian machine, designed for high-performance, power and superior luxury.  While it’s a bit pricey for most of us, its sticker price is not the only factor to consider when it comes to owning a Maserati.

A Maserati is an exceptionally high-maintenance vehicle, known to be expensive to maintain and repair; much more so than other cars in its class.  Ask a Maserati owner why they spend so much time and money maintaining a car whose value and performance could be found elsewhere and their response will echo that of designer and car collector, Ralph Lauren, “You can enjoy both the beauty of the machine and the journey it takes you on.”

High-performance output requires high performance input, in both cars and bodies.  Athletes are the high-performance models of the human body.  In order to keep up with the substantial demands required of being optimally fit, athletes must stick to an impeccable diet regimen, maintain quality and consistent rest habits, and adhere to regular exercise, training and conditioning programs.

Athletes also need superior health and wellness strategies to sustain optimal performance by their bodies. By having regular massage, athletes can keep their muscles healthy, improve their flexibility, maintain relaxation, and have a better sleep cycle.

Research compiled by NCBI, states, “Athletes and coaches are constantly fine tuning their training strategies in order to develop a competitive edge. The use of therapeutic modalities, such as thermal agents, electrical stimulation, and massage are often performed for this purpose. 

For most athletes, professional or the weekend warrior brand, enjoying less muscle stiffness, preventing injury, improving relaxation and well-being are reasons enough to enjoy a regular massage program. For some, it’s also about giving the Maserati its due.

Marc Dinardo
Sports Therapist & Personal Trainer Glasgow, UK

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