How Sports Massage May Enhance PerformanceA major role of the sports massage practitioner is to educate their clients. Thisinvolves having some knowledge of other areas which may affect their level ofactivity and sporting performance, but which are not always directly related to theactivity itself. Lifestyle, occupation and diet are just some of the things which caninfluence our state of physical and mental wellbeing - which in turn determines howwell we respond to the demands of rigorous activity. Such factors may have short-term as well as long-term effects.There are several factors which can influence a clients physical and mental state;effects that these factors may have on performance and what may be done tochange those influences.a) Promotes recovery and prevents overuseFollowing rigorous exercise, microscopic changes take place to blood vessels,connective tissue and muscle fibres. This is the start of the physical adaptationprocess and relies on sufficient time for proper recovery following controlled periodsof activity.This managed and gradual increase in the stresses placed on the body allows andencourages adaptations in the soft tissue to cope with greater levels of activityaimed at specific needs. The recovery period and the speed with which thesephysiological changes take place during this time are important to the success of thetraining program and in helping the person to remain healthy. If the overload isincreased too quickly, or too little time is allowed for recovery before the next boutof exercise ensues, the microscopic changes do not happen quickly enough to cope.Instead of adaptation, the muscle fibres and other soft tissues may become irritatedand inflamed, and muscles may respond by becoming tighter.If this cycle is repeated often enough the effects of what is commonly known asoveruse develop, and these often lead to imbalances in the musculo-skeletalsystem. If ignored and allowed to become chronic, they will not only hinder theathletes rate of improvement, but in many cases performance will suffer and injuryresult.Massage is an important means of helping muscles recover from fatigue. Byincreasing blood and lymph circulation, waste products resulting from exercise areremoved more efficiently and the supply of nutrients to the muscles is enhanced.This may help recovery and speed up the training adaptations, thereby helping toprevent overuse.b) Helps prevent injuryOne of the most important benefits of sports massage is the prevention of injury byhelping to maintain healthy muscles. If an athlete, for whatever reason, has a tight
muscle this may compress the blood vessels embedded within it and restrict the flowof nutrients and oxygen to the muscle so that they are not able to function at theirbest. This may increase the chances of suffering injury - either as a result of overuse,as described above, or a more serious traumatic injury such as a muscle tear. Forexample, in contact sports where agility is an important means of defence, a playerwith slower reaction time might suffer an injury from an unexpected tackle orimpaired co-ordination.c) Promotes healingSince an injured person is usually less mobile, their metabolism and the associatedhealing processes naturally tend to slow down following acute trauma. Sportsmassage stimulates these processes by warming the tissues, dilating the bloodvessels and increasing blood flow, so that the capillary walls become morepermeable. This allows better transportation of elements to the affected tissues andremoval of waste products from the area, thereby speeding up the repair process.The correct techniques used after the acute phase may also encourage betteralignment of new scar tissue in the direction of existing muscle fibres.d) Restores mobilityMassage helps restore flexibility to the muscles and joint range of motion byreducing muscle tension caused by the bodys protective mechanism followinginjury. This induces relaxation, and separates muscle fibres and adhesions caused byinjury or occurring in unusually tight - relatively inactive - muscles. Once musclesbecome relaxed they are more susceptible to other means of lengthening.e) Promotes confidenceBy helping an athlete relax mentally you will also have a positive effect on theirconfidence and their preparation for competitions. This relaxed state and sense ofwellbeing may also reduce tension and anxiety.This article was contributed by SOHA Institute Singapore.