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Defining massage for sport (Part One)

This is part one of our defining massage series.
What is Massage?

Massage is defined as ‘‘mechanical manipulation of body tissues with rhythmical pressure and stroking for the purpose of promoting health and well-being’’. It is used in sport for many purposes including the following;

  • Pre-exercise preparation

  • Post-exercise recovery

  • Injury prevention

  • Injury rehabilitation

This article will focus on the efficacy of post-exercise massage as a method of accelerating the recovery process in sport.

The practice of using post-exercise massage to facilitate recovery has been used for many years with scientific research dating back to the early 1970s. Over time, this recovery strategy has become a staple in many high-performance sport environments. It has been reported that 78% of professional football (soccer) players use post-exercise massage as a means of recovery. Classical massage, otherwise known as Swedish or Western massage, appears to be the most common form of massage used within sporting settings although is quickly being replaced with sports massage which is now the gold standard within athletic research. This form of massage includes techniques such as:

  • Effleurage (sliding/gliding movements)

  • Petrissage (tissue kneading or pressing)

  • Tapotement (rapid striking)

  • Friction (pressure application)

  • Vibration (Tremulous shaking movements)

Other techniques such as underwater water-jet massage, acupressure and connective tissue massage are also somewhat common, however, their remits are often disputed among academic circles.

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