If you’re an athlete or an active person who likes to indulge in sports, you’re no stranger to pulled muscles, joint pain, and even physical injury. As it turns out, you’re not alone.
In the U.S alone, there are more than 8.4 million sports-related injuries occurring every year. The scary thing is that there are way more injuries from exercise and fitness activities, such as jogging and running than any organized sport.
This really makes you wonder: should you just stop trying to be active, or is there some other way to address these concerning statistics. Surely, someone can hear you please?
Enter sports massage therapists.
Luckily for you sports and fitness aficionados, these therapists can help with everything sports-injury-related by using a very specialized form of deep tissue massage therapy.
But how exactly does it work— if it even works, that is.
This article contains all the information for athletes and aspiring sports massage therapists.
What Is Sports Massage Therapy?
We know what you’re thinking: how is sports massage therapy different from regular massage therapy? The best way to describe it is that it is a highly specialized version of deep tissue massage therapy.
The latter is a broad practice that targets deep muscle tissues to provide relief from muscle knots. On the other hand, sports massage therapy uses the same concept for the specific purpose of treating (or even training) an athlete.
Moreover, it uses specific application techniques that are appropriate for a specific problem— there is some goal that you’re after.
Hence, there are three main principles of sports massage therapy:
The problem is that you can’t always know which combination of timing, technique, and intent will best suit your needs.
That’s where a sports massage therapist comes in.
What Is A Sports Massage Therapist?
Sports massage therapists are professionals who are trained to condition the muscles of athletes of all skill levels.
You’ll soon see that these therapists go through extensive coaching and training. Moreover, they often have an associate degree in sports and rehabilitative therapy and similar domains.
So, just like dermatologists specialize in skincare and orthodontists specialize in dental health, these massage therapists are similarly skilled. Hence, they are specifically trained for sports-related muscular ailments, unlike your regular masseuse.
As we briefly discussed earlier, this conditioning could take on various forms with various goals and purposes. Thus, it is up to the expertise of the sports massage professional to determine how to treat clients on a case-to-case basis.
Moreover, these massage therapists work with professional sports figures, amateur athletes, and weekend warriors alike. Similarly, they can either operate independently or work for a corporate massage chain or spas.
However, the procedure is the same: stick to the aforementioned three principles.
For instance, let’s say you have a big game coming up, but your body doesn’t feel ready. In this case, your massage therapist will identify the following:
Of course, they can’t do this without getting your input. Therefore, most of your sessions will be highly interactive and require that you work with them just as much as they work with you.
What Are The Responsibilities Of A Sports Massage Therapist?
At this point, you should have a vague idea about how specialized massage therapists can answer your sports-related woes.
But let’s take a look beyond these skin-deep denotations and define some of the main responsibilities of a sports massage therapist.
1. Become Well-Acquainted With Their Clients
As we mentioned earlier, your sports massage therapy can only work if your massage therapist has a good understanding of your needs and circumstances.
As such, it is crucial for them to get to know your medical history, major concerns, and your athletic background. Using this information, they can design your treatment plan accordingly.
Some of the major ways that your therapist can gauge your circumstances are:
- Identifying the frequency and types of physical activities in which you partake. This will help them narrow down the possible cause(s) of your ailments and subsequently devise the most appropriate treatment plan.
- Enquiring into your medical history, including any previous treatments you have received and medications you’re taking. Knowing which medications you're taking is especially important since things like blood thinners can create more problems when using certain massage techniques.
- Asking you to identify your problem areas and pain hotspots.
- Acknowledging your personal intentions and goals with the deep tissue massage therapy while still incorporating intents that they deem important, but you might have overlooked.
2. Identify The Best Combination of Timing, Intent, And Technique
The point of the extensive background check and medical history is to determine the optimal combination of timing, technique, and intent.
Once they do so, they can then proceed to massage deep muscles and soft tissues. While we’ve already discussed an example of this, let’s refer to another instance to really drive the point home.
Instead of a pre-event warm-up, let’s say that you have sustained an injury while playing and have an open wound. Here is how your therapist will use your case history to come up with your ideal treatment plan:
- First, they will ask you how you injured yourself. At the same time, they will ask you to identify your pain hotspots and the intensity of the pain.
- Next, they will probe into your medical history to make sure your current medication does not interfere with the treatment.
- At the same time, they will also assess your range of motion and current muscle strength to understand how bad the problem is.
- Given that everything else is accounted for, a possible treatment plan could entail effleurage, compression, and cross-fiber friction. This will assist in the proper formation of scar tissue.
3. Assisting a Sports Team With Warm Up And Cool Downs
One of the unique and more exciting aspects of sports massage therapy is that the practitioner can work alongside sports team coaches.
Of course, they can’t take over the job of the coach— nor is that their intention.
Instead, they are present throughout practices and competitive sports events to ensure that the team has a proper warm-up and cool-down session. Believe it or not, this can actually make or break your performance as well as your overall health and wellbeing.
Hence, while a coach will guide you through the game from the sidelines, a sports massage therapist will overlook your muscular health.
4. Deal With On-The-Spot Injuries
In the case of overlooking your practices and games, a sports massage therapist can also help palliate some injuries on the spot.
If you’re skeptical, don’t be; these professionals are fully qualified for advanced first aid.
For example, if you rolled your ankle while kicking a ball across a soccer field, your team’s massage therapist can step in immediately. Thus, they can alleviate your pain without making you wait for a paramedic.
If you’re seeking to work as a professional deep tissue massage therapist for sports, you will probably have some of the following obligations as well:
- Maintain patient treatment records
- Learn how to operate related equipment. For example, deep tissue percussive tools, such as the Exogun DreamPro Massage Gun, are useful tools in every sports massage therapist’s arsenal.
- Learn and appropriately employ various sports massage modalities, including deep tissue, reflexology, hot stone, and Swedish massages.
- Maintain treatment records of the patients, which include an initial evaluation, sessional treatment reports, progress, and current treatment plan.
As you can tell, it’s a pretty elaborate job.
What Are The Qualifications And Training Requirements Of A Sports Massage Therapist?
Some people might have reservations about the qualifications of a sports massage therapist. But if you think that these practitioners operate on pseudo-science, think again!
In order to work as a sports massage therapist, one needs to have a minimum of a Highschool Diploma or GED. But that’s the bare minimum.
On top of that, they also go through intensive training, require prior experience working alongside other medical practitioners, and acquire certification.
But for a lot of clients and corporate chains looking to hire, that’s still not enough.
Luckily, many practitioners must also complete an accredited training program in sports massage therapy. Otherwise, they must acquire an associate’s degree in sports and rehabilitation therapy.
Rest assured, you’re in great hands.
Sports and physical activity are a great way to keep in shape and maintain your physical health- if you do it right, that is.
Of course, you can’t always be prepared for an accident. Nor can you predict that your muscles will suddenly give way and become impaired.
But a licensed sports massage therapist can do all that for you.
From conditioning your muscles to increasing your flexibility or even healing sports-related injuries, these trained massage therapists have got your back.
So, if you’ve had enough of strained muscles and sore joints, it’s about time you schedule your first deep tissue massage therapy appointment.
You may also like: The Ultimate and Safe Guide to Muscle Percussion Therapy