Professional athletes of all kinds, whether in football or baseball, need to recover quickly from their intensive training and games. And one method they use to expedite recovery is through sports massage.
Sports massage can be helpful but must be used with care. Photo: Reuters
Sports massage is a general term for different styles of massage fused together that specifically aims to help the athlete recover or enhance performance.
There are broadly two types of sports massage: post-activity massage and pre-activity massage.
While massages may feel good, physiotherapist Yeo Hwee Koon warns that pre-activity massage is not suitable for most people.
“Pre-activity massage is not for everyone. It is for a very specific group of people who need to wake their muscles up for their activity,” said Yeo who is a Senior Sports Physiotherapist at Singapore Sports Institute.
“For some people, who after their warm up, still have some tension because there is a build-up of physical activity for the last few days, and there is still that last bit of tension, that is where we go in and help them with sports massage.
“It cannot be used as a substitute for pre-games warm-up.”
Professional athletes such as Thailand's national badminton player Ratchanok Intanon regularly receives sports massages as part of their training sessions. Photo: Reuters
The more common form of sports massage that athletes and sportsmen can use is the post-activity sports massage.
“For post-activity massage, you are looking at releasing tension within the muscle. So the stroke for the massage is actually slightly different from your usual relaxation massage,” Yeo said.
Yeo said that this type of sports massage is used to release muscle tension, but she carefully draws the line at saying it helps muscle recovery as muscle recovery involves a variety of aspects ranging from psychology, to nutrition and physiology.
“There is not enough research evidence to say that it helps with muscle recovery, because muscle recovery involves a lot of things,” she said.
“For physiology and sports medicine, we look at recovery in terms of whether there are any damages in the muscle, and normalising muscle tension.
“But I can’t equate it to a full recovery because it is just a small part of it.”
Yeo leaves one last word of warning for people who are injured and want to attempt sports massage for the purpose of recovery.
“If they have an injury and they just rely on sports massage, it may make their injury worse. For an acute injury, a contraindication would be massage itself.”
As with everything to do with your health, it is best to leave it to the professionals, and only go for a sports massage when your doctor or physiotherapist has recommended so.