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  • My thoughts on Athletes and Sports Massage

    by Guest Blogger | Aug 15, 2016

    By: John Balletto, LMT, CKTP

    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.

    Lasse Virén, the “Flying Finn,” attributed his success in winning the 1972 and 1976 5K and 10K events to his regular massage regimen. Ever since, sports massage has become a household term in training rooms, health clubs, in conversations with other athletes and at the location of competitions – from scholastic and recreational events and to elite competition venues. 

    So, what is sports massage all about? 

    Well, simply stated, sports massage uses the principles and theories of massage that are applied specifically with the desired outcome to help an individual athlete obtain maximum performance levels.  It is far more than a reward at the end of a workout or competition.  It is recognized as a critical component of an athlete’s training regimen, helping them recover from exertion (DOMS) or injury, maintain healthy range of motion and functional movement patterns, as well as helping the athlete remain both physically and psychologically healthy.  Today’s sports massage therapist is an integrated member of an athlete’s care and coaching team.

    At the events this month and next, sports massage therapists will be an integrated part of the medical team, assigned to provide pre-event and post-event massage at select competition venues and at the medical clinic for athletes.

    I have had the great fortune to serve as a massage therapist at several of these venues as well as in the training rooms of collegiate and professional teams.  My experiences are deeply etched in memories now, as I concentrate on serving my local athletic community.  With my clients, I have enjoyed the thrill of victory and the disappointment of just missing out on a qualifications similar to what is happening to athletes this week;  the joys of winning an NCAA national championship; the agony of breaking an oar at the finals of a rowing championship; cheering a client on at their first 5K or marathon event; helping to give an athlete some peace of mind and reassurance by applying an elastic taping to a “stiff shoulder” prior to competing in an individual medley, carrying their oars to the dock while giving them a little pep talk prior to their rowing sprint event, and countless other moments that support athletes at all levels of competition.

    More importantly, though, I provide sports massage services to a much wider public trying to improve their health and wellbeing—in support of Exercise is Medicine®, a global health initiative managed by the American College of Sports Medicine.   While in my jurisdiction it is outside of the legal scope of practice to include recommendations for physical activity and exercise while working with my clients, I regularly speak at local running clubs, senior centers, cardiac rehabilitation support groups to encourage physical activity—and to let these very special athletes know that their local sports massage therapist is there to help them.  Sports massage is effective in relieving the pain of shin splints in the overweight factory worker trying to achieve his fitness tracker goal of 10,000 steps per day; or to help a 59 year-old female, 10-hour  “marathoner” finisher to maintain the 88-pound weight loss she achieved five years ago.  And, with the help of clients reporting their satisfaction and results, more and more physicians, physical therapists and ACSM certified personal trainers are encouraging their patients and clients to use sports massage therapists to help keep them physically healthy and on track to meet their health care goals. 

    So, I encourage athletes at all levels, health care providers of every specialty, wellness coaches and all supporters of Exercise is Medicine to remember the sports massage therapist and include them as part of the team.  Let us help make America (and the rest of the world) healthy again.

    John Balletto, LMT, CKTP, is a licensed massage therapist and certified kinesio taping practitioner.



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