Sports Massage for Enhanced Athletic Performance

Table of Contents

Sports massage is a massage therapy that is familiar to athletes and fitness trainers. Sports massage is often used as a treatment to treat injuries after competition or to relax athletes’ muscles before competition.

Because of the positive effects felt by the body after doing sports massage, now sports massage is not only used by professionals but is quite well-known among amateurs.

What is Sports Massage?

Massage is a traditional healing technique to reduce muscle tension, reduce stress, and increase a sense of calm. Massage in general is very often done by various groups or at different age levels.

Then, this massage therapy experienced many developments, one of which was sports massage therapy. Sports massage can meet the special needs of athletes, thereby distinguishing it from massage therapy in general.

Around the 1920s, sports massage was first used at the 1924 Paris Olympics, the person who did this sports massage was Paavo Nurmi. Then in the 1950s, Jack Meager was considered the father of sports massage, and his therapy method was called the Meager Method. This massage sports therapy method was first used by NFL players and other athletes.

Since then, sports massage for athletes has been considered an important part of the world of sports.

Sports Massage Techniques

It is known that there are more than 100 types of massage techniques in the world that have different purposes and benefits. In general, the practice of massage is done by pressing certain parts of the body that feel painful, especially the muscles and soft tissue.

Because it is related to bodily injury, massage therapy should be carried out by professionals in their field, namely massage therapists. Massage therapists understand the techniques that should be used. If massage therapy is done by just anyone, the problem may get worse.

The techniques used in sports massage are different from massage in general. There are at least five main types of techniques in sports massage, namely:

1. Effleurage

Effleurage is the first technique used to relax muscle tension, detect pain centers, increase blood circulation, and prepare the body before performing the next technique, petrissage.

Effleurage movements are circular sliding movements carried out by the fingers, palms, thumbs, elbows, and forearms.

2. Petrissage

The petrissage technique is intended to remove lactic acid, reduce pain, relieve delayed soreness, and break up muscle knots.

The movement is similar to kneading using the hands, knuckles, and palms. Petrissage is effective for improving injury recovery.

3. Tapotement

This technique is performed on soft muscle areas with light, rhythmic, and fast strokes using the ulnar part of the hand. Tapotement aims to improve blood circulation, and muscle contractions and stimulate nerve endings. That way, the body will feel fitter.

4. Friction

This technique uses heat friction to destroy scar tissue in the injured area, resulting in smoother blood flow. One way to produce heat is by rubbing your palms together and placing them on the injured area.

5. Vibration

This technique utilizes vibrations caused by back-and-forth movements using the fingertips, heel of the hand, or the side to relax tense muscles.

Types of Sports Massage

There are four types of sports massage used on athletes, and each type of sports massage applies different sports massage techniques.

1. Pre-Event Sports Massage

As the name suggests, this type of sports massage is indicated for athletes who are preparing for a competition or before a training session. Pre-event sports massage is very important as a step to prevent serious injuries and relax muscles so that athletes are more flexible when moving.

The massage aims to prepare the body before competition by increasing blood flow to provide nutrition to the muscles, preventing muscle injuries, and reducing muscle tension.

The massage techniques used are:

  • Effleurage, relaxes the muscles and increases blood flow to provide nutrition to the muscles,
  • Tapotement, stimulates nerves in muscles,
  • Friction, improves blood circulation and warms the skin, and
  • Vibration, relieves muscle tension.

Usually done four hours before competing for 10-15 minutes. However, it can also be done earlier, up to 72 hours before competing, to avoid the pain after massage that bothers athletes during competition.

However, this massage is also often done in the middle of a match, which is called inter-event sports massage. The goal is to remove lactic acid buildup, relax muscles, reduce minor injuries, and warm muscles.

2. Past-Event Sports Massage

This sports massage therapy is carried out after the athlete has finished competing, ideally 72 hours after the event. This is not without reason but rather gives athletes time to refill body fluids, stretch, cool down, and recover with an ice bath after heavy sports activities.

Just like pre-event, post-event sports massage is also done for 10-15 minutes. It’s just that the duration can be longer if there are certain conditions or injuries at a certain level.

The effleurage technique is used to start the post-event spot massage, followed by petrissage or internal massage, tapotement, friction, and vibration. This vibration technique has a big influence on eliminating lactic acid which causes muscle pain, channeling nutrients to the muscles, and detecting the center of pain or injury.

The duration and pressure of each massage technique depend on the athlete’s condition, body type, recovery speed, and metabolism.

3. Maintenance Sports Massage

This massage aims to keep the athlete’s body and muscles fit by eliminating lactic acid and reducing muscle tension. Sports massage maintenance is carried out post-event or between events. So that injury recovery will be faster and athletes’ performance will be optimal during competition.

Maintenance massage also has another important role, namely preventing the risk of serious injury, increasing body flexibility, reducing muscle fatigue, and relaxing athletes physically and mentally.

4. Rehabilitation Sports Massage

Rehabilitation massage is intended to recover from serious injuries that professional or amateur athletes may have experienced. This sports massage is carried out as a companion recovery in addition to medical assistance so that injuries recover more quickly and prevent re-injury in the future.

Coordination between massage therapists and media staff is necessary when treating an injured person to know what kind of recovery program needs to be implemented.

Effleurage, tapotement, friction, and vibration techniques are used in this massage therapy. Petrissage is generally not performed because pain occurs after massage.

How Sports Massage Affects Athletes’ Performance

Sports massage plays an important role in providing direct and indirect influence in enhancing athlete performance. The following are several conditions that can be treated by sports massage therapy so that it influences enhancing athlete performance, including:

1. Recover conditions faster

Athletes physically move more and heavier than people in general, so the risk of injury is greater. However, the injury recovery time must be quite fast before returning to the next competition. Speeding up recovery is one of the important needs that can be met by sports massage.

The recovery process carried out by sports massage is by removing muscle waste in the form of lactic acid. By removing lactic acid, recovery occurs more quickly and efficiently so athletes can return to training and competing in a short time.

2. Prevent the risk of injury

Furthermore, preventing the risk of injury is a special concern for athletes. Sports massage can be a way to detect imbalances in muscle tissue function before they get worse, thereby significantly reducing the risk of serious injury. That way, athletes can perform better because their body performance increases.

3. Increase body flexibility

An athlete’s body must be in good condition and fit so that they can move freely without fear of feeling pain in certain parts. Sports massage is one of the main factors in increasing body flexibility by focusing on repairing muscle tissue, joints, and connective tissue.

Massage techniques that can be used to increase flexibility include petrissage and tapotement techniques to reduce muscle fatigue. That way, the athlete’s performance increases optimally because they have a greater range of motion.

4. Reduces DOMS

DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness is muscle pain that appears after 12 hours or 24 hours after exercise. The pain caused by DOMS is quite disturbing, especially for athletes who have to do repetitive activities in a short time.

DOMS can be overcome by doing sports massage to relax muscles and relieve muscle pain. Several studies say that sports massage is effective in reducing pain due to DOMS by as much as 13%. If the pain is successfully managed, the athlete’s performance will be better.

5. Provides psychological calm

Not only does it have a positive impact on the physical, but sports massage has a good psychological effect on athletes. Usually, athletes who compete experience anxiety and mental tension.

Using sports massage, and good body conditioning will help relax mentally. With a healthy psychological condition, the athlete’s mind will be full of positive things so that the athlete’s performance increases.


Sports massage plays an active role in enhancing athlete performance. By helping injury recovery more quickly, preventing the risk of injury, increasing the body’s range of motion, reducing DOMS, and encouraging positive effects on the athlete’s psychological health, the athlete’s performance in training or competition will enhanced.

Therefore, sports massage is the right, fast, and efficient way to enhance athlete performance to achieve goals and win.