It's no surprise that Olympic athletes are extremely hard on their bodies. To become an Olympian, these young athletes have to train for years, for hours every day. To be successful and have longevity in their athletic career, these athletes make taking care of their bodies a vital part of their training. Athletes focus on conditioning, stretching, strength training, and having proper nutrition. Even when they do all of the right things, athletes know that injury can happen, and it can put an immediate end to their Olympic dreams. This is why many athletes have turned to massage therapy to help them stay healthy and injury free, reduce recovery time when there is an injury, and reach their peak performance level.
Self care is not a new concept to athletes. The first Olympic Games (not the modern games we know now, but the games in ancient Greece) were way back in 776 BC. Even at this time, athletes understood the importance of taking care of their bodies. Athletes would rub olive oil into their muscles before events to not only warm up the muscles, but to help with performance, as well.
They also would get massages after workouts and events. Hippocrates stressed the importance of post-exercise massage to help alleviate muscle pain. Ancient Greeks found that post-exercise massage with oil rub resulted in a faster recovery time and reduced muscle fatigue as it increased blood flow. They also found that built up lactic acid was removed quicker from the blood vessels.
Although athletes have been using massage therapy for centuries to help obtain optimal health, massage therapy didn't become an official part of the Olympic Games until very recently. As pointed out in Massage Bodywork magazine, in 1984, massage therapy was very much a part of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles where massage therapists where part of the medical team. Then, in 2002 in Salt Lake City, massage therapy became an official part of the games. The 2002 Olympic Massage Team consisted of 260 therapists representing 12 countries and 39 US states. During each Olympic and Paralympic Games, massage therapists from all over the world apply to be an official massage therapist of the games, and it is a great honor to be selected.
How does Sports Massage help athletes?
There are 3 main goals of Sports Massage:
1) Help the athlete achieve peak performance
2) Prevent or reduce the risk of injury
3) Help with injury recovery when an injury occurs
There are 4 times that a Sports Massage can be administered to help an athlete:
1) Pre-event massage: The pre-event massage helps to warm-up muscles, increase circulation to specific muscles, and help with range of motion and joint mobility. This massage focuses on the muscles that will be used most in the activity.
2) Post-event massage: The post-event massage helps the athlete to recover from muscle pain and cramping after strenuous use. It also helps to reestablish range of motion and circulation.
3) Maintenance massage: The maintenance massage is provided between events and is a part of the athlete's overall optimal wellness program. It targets the athlete's strengths, flexibility, coordination, balance, bio-mechanics, posture, scar tissue, and existing injuries.
4) Rehabilitation massage: Even the most trained muscles can cramp, tear, ache, and bruise. Rehabilitation massage can help reduce pain and speed up recovery time.
For Olympic and professional athletes, massage is not just a way to relax and treat themselves- it is vital to their vigorous training routines. Although athletes have been using massage for centuries to help them obtain peak performance levels and stay injury-free, it is finally now getting the recognition that it so very much deserves. Athletes have to know their bodies very well, and they know what they need to do to have a long and successful career.
Massage Therapists at A Therapeutic Effect understand the importance of massage therapy as part of an optimal wellness and training program. Through sports massage and therapeutic bodywork, we are proud to help athletes of all ages and levels stay healthy, active, and achieve their peak performance levels.