Man giving sports massage


It’s not only professional athletes who are engaged in sports. More Americans are picking up the ball, running, bike riding, and more to stay fit. But with sports come more injuries. And here’s where sports massage therapy comes in. It’s designed to help participants prevent injuries as well as recover faster when they get hurt. Find out what goes into a sports massage and why it may be what you are seeking to advance your career.

Looking for a career specialty or want to add more services to your current massage practice? You might want to consider sports massage. It’s good news that more people are engaging in physical activity to stay fit. Among the most recent statistics, the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicated that around 19 percent of the U.S. population was engaged in sports and exercise each day in 2017. This included participation in sports, exercise, and other active leisure activities.[1]  However, as more people are involved in sports and physical recreation, more injuries result from these activities.

Specifically, sports massage is designed for those who are physically active to help relax muscles and relieve tension through a collection of massage techniques to prevent and treat injuries.  Sports massage techniques are similar to Swedish massage, focusing on muscles with a large degree of stress and overuse. But sports massage works much deeper into the muscles to reduce soreness, swelling, and tension. The reduction in muscle tension can reduce the chance of injury. [2]

For professional athletes, sports massage is recognized as an accepted component of their training and competitive activities. In this way, an athlete can enhance pre-competition and reduce the recovery period.  Among the key benefits of sports massage, according to Brad Walker, the Stretch Coach, are: [3]

Improve motion and flexibility: Professional and top athletes can overuse muscles from overtraining, which leads to muscle rigidly. Sports massage can help to relax overly tense muscles and provide additional flexibility to improve performance.

Shortens recovery time: Sports massage helps the body deal with stress caused by exercise and competition and, in doing so, can help prevent injury. It increases blood flow and lymph fluid to assist the body’s natural healing process, speeds waste removal, and improves general health. It also reduces swelling and inflammation caused by physical activity.

Reduces pain: Massage increases blood and lymph fluid flow, thereby speeding the injury rehabilitation process. A massage also helps with pain from spasms and cramps, common with elite athletic training.

But sports massage isn't just for athletes. Sports massage techniques are suitable for non-athletes and help with injuries, chronic pain, muscle aches, and restricted range of motion.

Job Opportunities in Sports Massage

As a sports massage therapist, there are several opportunities open to you in addition to treating your current clientele to prevent and treat injuries from sports and strenuous exercise. Hospitals, sports clinics, high schools, and universities, and gyms may employ sports therapists. And you may even go on the road with a sports team.

Recommended training

Besides becoming nationally certified in massage therapy, additional education, including securing an undergraduate degree in exercise physiology or kinesiology, can improve your skills for sports massage therapy.[4] You’ll also want to understand what is involved in a specific sport and the type of training it involves.

In a recent development, The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) has partnered with an international credentialing organization, the International Therapy Examination Council (ITEC), to make sports massage available as a specialty at some NCBTMB-approved schools and to give graduates additional credentialing opportunities through ITEC. [5]

With the growing emphasis on keeping fit through sports and exercise activities, sports therapy may be a new opportunity to help grow your massage practice.





[1] Lange, David, “Physical Activity – Statistics and Facts,” Statista, November 16, 2010.
[2] Herring, Eliza, “The Difference Between Swedish and Sports Massage,” Leaf, accessed January 8, 2021.
[3] Walker, Brad, “Sports Massage Therapy for Recovery and Injury Rehabilitation,” Stretch Coach, May 29, 2020.
[4] “Working in Sports Massage,” AMTA, accessed January 8, 2021.

[5] “Sports Massage Therapy: A Massage Therapy Specialty,” Massage Therapy, accessed January 8, 2021.

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