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The Benefits Of Regular Sports Massage For Athletes

Sure, foam rollers and massage guns can help recovery, but a regular sports massage may help take your fitness to the NEXT LEVEL.

What is sports massage??

Sports massage has been around for quite a few years, but it has only grown in popularity over the last five or so years. Sportsmen and women are more visible and accessible to the public eye than ever before, and this is especially true in CrossFit. The general public is more interested in how CrossFit athletes perform and what they do to get ready for a competition.

Sports massage is used for a number of different reasons, but it is especially effective in aiding recovery, improving mobility, and treating and preventing injury. This makes it a perfect tool within professional sports to help improve individual performance.

Sports like CrossFit demands different functional movements at different levels of intensity and variety. When you become injured, your body’s effectiveness becomes compromised and compensates for that injured area. This diminishes your ability to react and carry out movements to their optimum potential. 

To ensure you perform at your best, you must recover quickly and efficiently after competition or training. This enables you to gain the full benefit from a hard workout or strength-and-conditioning session. If you don’t recover efficiently, then performance and fatigue can set in, eventually succumbing to the effects of overtraining.

Recovery & Injury Prevention are two of the most important factors contributing to high-level performance. To fully benefit from hard strength/conditioning sessions and to help prevent injuries, we MUST recover as efficiently and quickly as possible. There has been an argument brewing regarding CrossFit and raising the bar for “overtraining” for some time now. Equally, most of us have heard about overtraining and rhabdomyolysis which must be avoided. If we do not recover well enough, then impaired performance, fatigue, and lethargy are likely to occur.

Continuous poor recovery will most likely lead to an injury or overtraining syndrome. Whilst it is important for this to be monitored, more often than not your coach/therapist will take this on board and do the thinking/programming for you. Therefore, you have one less thing to think about. Importantly, leaving you to focus more on RECOVERY.

Regular massage therapy can help you recover from high bouts of intense training. A change in program design = Volume/intensity/type of exercise will often leave you feeling sore/tight post activity. A change in tissue tone is thought to impede the rate we are able to deliver nutrients and oxygen to the cells and also negatively affect the way we expel waste products from our muscles. Areas of local tenderness will represent themselves as trigger points – these are the areas we aim to find when rolling out on our foam roller or lacrosse ball. Excessive trigger points can cause inhibition of the muscle and thus have a detrimental effect on performance. Furthermore, this can then lead to biomechanical abnormalities which in my personal opinion is one of the main predisposing factors for injury as a result of poor movement patterns.

Sports massage can help:

  • Promote efficient scar formation following acute trauma

  • Reduce excessive adhesion and scar formation following chronic trauma

  • Reduce excessive fascial thickening

  • Reduce spasm secondary to pain

  • Decrease neuronal excitability

Reducing tension and adhesions in muscle allows you to improve your range of motion. The massage will also dilate your blood vessels and have a positive effect on your cardiovascular system. This improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients throughout the body while removing waste products and toxins at a quicker rate. Muscle repair times are faster, ultimately reducing the risk of delayed onset muscle soreness.

It will also aid in the process of recovery — especially as you change your program, add weight, or attempt something different in your normal routine. If you are new to a sport or movement, massage is even more relevant because you will be learning new skills and movements that will put a lot of strain on your body.

Techniques such as dry needling, trigger point therapy, and myofascial release will help reduce and release adhesions and knots, ensuring your muscles return to their optimum state a lot quicker. 

Sports massage helps relieve pain and promote the growth of new muscle cells while repairing the damaged ones. Even if you are not in pain, sports massage will improve muscle function, thus making you more efficient while recovering and competing.

Regarding recovery, sports massage can:

  • Reduce excessive post-exercise muscle tone

  • Increase muscle range

  • Increase circulation and nutrition to damaged tissue

  • Deactivate symptomatic trigger points

  • Identify soft tissue abnormalities

There are also many psychological benefits of sports massage, such as relaxation and stress reduction — both mentally and physiologically. A clear head is key to individual success, and sports massage often aids individuals in concentration and application. 

Massage therapy should be a part of your toolbox for recovery. It can help to play a pivotal role in recovering and staying injury-free – allowing more training time. There is no bigger annoyance for an athlete than to be out on the treatment couch.


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