This stage also facilitates the athlete's recovery time and sort of eases up pulls, strains and soreness. The third form, maintenance sport massage, is performed at least once a week. It increases the flow of blood and nutrients to the muscles. It keeps the tissues loose to enable the different layers of muscles to slide easily over each other. It also helps restricts the development of scar tissue as it increases flexibility and the range of motion. The overall goal of sports massage is to maximize athletic performance (Davidson).
Applications good sports massage therapist combines the best or most suitable techniques to achieve desired results (Davidson 2001). Each session lasts from 30 to 60 minutes. Pre-event massage is used or given before a competition or performance. It consists mainly of brisk effleurage and petrissage strokes. Effleurage strokes stimulate and warm the muscles up. Petrissage strokes help muscles to move smoothly and reduce muscle tension. Effleurage strokes are relaxing and stimulating when performed briskly. Pressure increases as the massage progresses. The therapist uses percussive strokes and cupping in order to stimulate the muscles and make them contract and flex. The leg and back muscles are the focus of sports massage. Post-event massage, on the other hand, is normally given for 1 to 2 hours after the competition so as to allow the blood vessels to return to normal. Post-event massage must be gentle and light so as to prevent damage to stressed muscles. It aims at hastening the elimination of toxic waste products and at reducing swelling. Very light effleurage decreases swelling, while light petrissage helps remove toxins and relieve tense and stiff muscles. Maintenance massage is given at least once a week while the athlete trains. It is usually performed on the back and legs. Before getting sports massage, a person should first consult a physician if he has an acute infectious disease, aneurysm, heavy bruising, cancer, hernia, high blood pressure, tissue damage inflammation, osteoporosis, phlebitis, varicose veins, and particular skin conditions. Sports massage is safe and effective and has no side effects when correctly given (Davidson).
Five spa treatments are available to athletes to enhance performance and prevent sports-related injuries (American Fitness 2001). These are chi sports massage, eucalyptus breeze, chi deep tissue, superstretch, thermal deep pack, and lymphatic drainage (American Fitness). Many athletes now strongly endorse massage therapy as an effective means of preventing or healing sports injuries (Muscle and Fitness/Hers 2002). The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork said that regular massage provides a number of concrete benefits. It improves the range of motion and prevents injuries to muscles and tendons. It increases energy and endurance. It stimulates the release of endorphin, thereby reducing pain of muscle constriction. It increases the flow of lymph fluid, which removes toxins and waste products. It maintains physical condition for improved overall performance (Muscle and Fitness/Hers).
Aspects of Excellent Athletic Performance
What are the aspects of an excellent sports or athletic performance? They are anatomical, physiological, psychological and physical (Hall 2004). The anatomical aspects are the body composition, its flexibility and buoyancy or speed. The physiological aspects are the heart and the lungs, the feel of the sports medium, power and gross motor skills. The psychological aspects are attitude towards waiting to train and the will to win. And the physical aspect is the training or competition environment. This environment includes massage therapy (Hall).
Focus must be made on the psychological aspects of greatness in order to perform excellently (Hall 2004). The will to train puts an athlete ahead if he has the right motivation. This involves fruitful practice or training. The will to train consists of the desire to perform better by acting it out in a meaningful way, as in training or workouts. The will to win is the more crucial and the most crucial in excellent performance. The will to win is 90% mental or psychological. Experts said that if the finalists in an athletic competition were comparably prepared and talented, the winner would be the one who has the mental edge. This would be the contestant who wanted the most to win (Hall).
In summary, massage therapy provides valuable and long-term benefits to the athlete or individual (Cates 1998). It reduces stress, increases musculoskeletal endurance, increases circulation and organ function, improves skin texture, and eliminates toxins and waste products in the lymphatic system. With these functions in better working order, overall health improves. In this condition, stress is decreased, one's mental attitude improves, productivity increases and energy levels rise (Cates). Massage therapy, thus, enhances optimal athletic performance.
American Fitness. Body Therapeutics. Aerobics and Fitness Association of America: Gale Group, July 2001
Calechman, Steve. The Right Massage for You. Natural Health: Weider Publications, Inc., October-November 2001
Cates, Nancy Dodd. In Touch with the Healing Powers of Massage. Better Nutrition: PRIMEDIA Intertec, 1998
Crabtree, Margot. Massage: an Old Tradition in a New Millenium. Better Nutrition: PRIMEDIA Intertec, 1997
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