With the Rio Olympic Games underway and tears of joy, disappointment and pain evident I am reminded how much massage can help athletes in both preparation and recovery. No doubt there is a huge team behind the scenes with most, if not all, teams helping athletes to prepare and recover.
Massage can’t help with everything of course. The gymnast who spectacularly and painfully broke his leg in a missed landing from the vaulting horse and the weightlifter whose arm just snapped under the pressure of the weights he was lifting definitely needed surgery and not a massage!
Some of us may get to work in elite sports, most of us will be content to help with marathon runners, cyclists and a whole host of other sportspeople. We may also work with people who become aware of their sedentary lifestyle and take up new sports. One of the latest activities in my area is trampolining and of course as lots of people go out and start walking long distances Pokemon hunting then some unusual aches and pains might emerge. One member of my household has walked over 50 miles so far in pursuit of these little monsters – my dog is very grateful as she usually gets to go along!
Massage can help greatly, it will lessen muscle tension and improve the range of motion, while also making the athlete feel more relaxed. How does it do this? Massage applies pressure to muscles and other connective tissue – including tendons, ligaments and fascia. Fascia is the structure that surrounds all tissue in the body in an interconnected matrix. Massage helps to soften this fascial tissue to allow the muscles to relax and to return it to its optimal motion. By doing this it can return the muscle to its true strength and flexibility and therefore increase performance. A professional boxer I worked on for a while found that when he started receiving massage it knocked 4 minutes off his personal best training run time.
Medical research has also pointed to massage as a positive boost for the body’s immunity[i] in the effect it has on biochemistry. A multiple range of studies found that massage both decreased cortisol (cortisol suppresses immune cells so that the body focuses on the stressful situation in hand) and at the same time increased both serotonin and dopamine, not only are these ‘happy drugs’ good for motivation and feeling positive about life and its challenges but they also help to activate an immune response in the body.
If you are new to working on athletes, and providing your training has equipped you for deeper massage, you can often volunteer at charity events where there is often a ‘massage tent’ where qualified and willing volunteers are very welcome.
There is great satisfaction as a massage practitioner in helping someone to achieve their best in their sport – be that at a professional level or someone who has just been feeling the burn from all of that Pokemon hunting!