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  • Recovery, Injury Prevention and Stress Reduction: Massage Therapy for Elite Athletes

    by Guest Blogger | Aug 05, 2016

    By: Ann Blair Kennedy

    From August 5 through August 22, the ACSM Sports Performance Blog is featuring a special content series in celebration of the achievements of elite athletes participating in international competition. Be sure to follow the blog as well as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (acsm1954) and share using #ScienceofSport.

    Another four years have passed, and it is time again to enjoy the pinnacle of elite, international competition. One complex issue is how to keep athletes in peak athletic performance in order to potentially achieve victory and glory for themselves and their nations. Health care at high-profile sporting events requires an integrative team, from physicians to dentists to massage therapists, which can keep athletes in their peak performance zones. While surveillance of types of illness and injuries has been reported for large-scale international athletic events, rarely is the type of treatment discussed. In a new study of the Pan American Games in 2011, statistical modeling indicates that massage therapy was the most sought treatment by the US athletes.

    World renowned athletes competing this month are reporting that massage therapy is one of the key interventions that have helped them on their journey to success. Elite athletes often rely on massage therapy to help with their recovery and treating injuries.  Also, massage appears to help not just with the physical injuries; it may also help with mental stresses that athletes are coping with during competition. While massage therapy does appear to help improve health and wellness for athletes, it is important to note that a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise found the effectiveness of post-athletic event massage therapy was impacted by the level of experience and education of the therapist giving the treatment. In short, more education on the part of the therapist led to less soreness for the athlete at 24- and 48-hours post event.

    Remember, athletes at all levels can benefit from treatment. Massage therapy can be a valuable part of anyone’s wellness and health care plan. If you are in need of finding a professional massage therapist for yourself or a patient, the Find a Massage Therapist Locator Service from the American Massage Therapy Association- the most respected association in massage therapy- can link you with a qualified therapist in your area. The locator service allows therapists to indicate techniques (e.g. sports massage) and years of experience along with their location and contact information; therefore, searching for a sports massage therapist with a significant amount of training should help narrow down the field to find the therapist that is just right.

    Sports medicine teams supporting athletes this month will have the benefit of having qualified massage therapists nearby to help athletes recover from and prepare for intense competition. Swimmers, cyclists, gymnasts and all manner of athletes have reported using massage therapy during training, competition and recovery but as an observer, it is unlikely that you will ever catch a glimpse of these important sports medicine team members. They will be behind the scenes, assessing injuries, creating plans of care and treating athlete after athlete.

    Ann Blair Kennedy, LMT, BCTMB, DrPH is a SC licensed massage therapist and the first Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville where she is interested in using health behavior theories in interventions and clinical practice to assist people in starting and maintaining positive lifestyle behavior change. You can find her on Twitter at ABKlmt.

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