Suffering an injury from sport is inevitable for professionals and amateurs alike. Whatever your chosen sport, be it football, golf, tennis, cricket or running, you will undoubtedly pick up the odd niggling injury or something more serious. Sports massage has become an important element not only for sports training and competition, but also for the prevention and treatment of sporting injuries.
Obviously prevention of the injury is better than treatment but the majority of injuries in sport are caused by overuse, misuse or abuse of the body. Many sports injuries are avoidable by proper preparation before an event (warming up) and easing down after an event (cooling down). Sports massage therapists tend to see most injuries as a result of failure in coordination; this is particularly true at the beginning of the sporting season when the athlete’s expectations exceed their ability. Sports injuries also increase near the end of an activity when fatigue affects coordination or in the opening minutes of the match or event when stretching hasn’t been performed properly. So what are some of the common sports injuries and how can sports massage help?
Many sporting injuries are a result of a sprain or strain. A sprain affects the ligaments (the bands of elastic tissue that hold joints together and limit movement) and a strain affects the muscles. A common sports injury treated with sports massage is a sprained ankle. When the ankle turns inward and under the leg, the outside ligaments are damaged (over stretching or tearing). The injury will require first-aid to begin with followed by rehabilitation and strengthening. During rehabilitation, sports massage can be employed and the sports massage therapist will use a method called ‘friction massage’. This method reduces the development of scar tissue or breaks down any built up scar tissue that has already developed.
Anyone who has watched a football match or an athletics event would have at some point seen the footballer or athlete pull up grabbing the back of their leg. This is a common sports injury known as a hamstring strain. There are three hamstring muscles that flex the knee joint and extend the hip. The strain occurs when the hamstring muscles are at their maximum length (when the tibia is stretched out and the foot is about to strike the ground). The symptoms are a short sharp pain at the back of the leg followed by spasms, swelling and bruising. Sports massage treats hamstring injuries using deep tissue massage techniques. A method called ‘petrissage’ can be applied to separate and realign muscle tissue preventing scar tissue from forming. This sports massage method also encourages better circulation of blood and fluids to the area aiding healing and recovery time.
Runners, dancers or anyone involved with sports that require jumping will be aware of a sports injury known as ‘plantar fasciitis’. This injury is an inflammation of the tendon that runs over the arch of the foot (which can sometimes rupture). Symptoms of the injury include pain under the inside of the heel or around the outside border. Stretching the plantar fascia tendon is an important part of rehabilitation and strengthening. Sports massage reduces tension in the tendon by applying deep pressure stroking movements to stretch out the fibres.
These are just a few of the sports injuries that a sports massage therapist can help you with. Sports massage should play an important part in your regime whether you are suffering with an injury or not. A trained sports massage therapist can also educate you on stretching exercises and footwear to help keep your body in good condition before, during and after physical activity.