Sports Massage: Definition, Types

What is Sports Massage?


 Working with athletes, runners and cyclists, I really understand the importance of Sports Massage! It is vital for people that exercise on a regular basis and also for those with some kinds of muscle or joint injury. I find it very effective, of course when it’s done right! I’m sure You will find some cool info here – just keep on reading 😉

Sports Massage is the application of therapeutic massage to clients engaged in athletics or strenuous exercise, in order to assist them in:

  • immediate physical preparation for their events/activities
  • optimal performance during their events/activities
  • faster recovery from their events/activities
  • maintaining top physical condition in general


In order to effectively apply massage techniques in these situations, the Massage Therapist must have an understanding of:

  • injury
  • injury grading
  • recovery time for injuries
  • the injury process, including inflammatory response
  • sports massage terminology
  • kinesiology
  • massage modalities employed particularly in Sports Massage
  • when to refer to Physical Therapist, sports medicine doctors, etc.


 Specific Types of Sports Massage

Pre-event Massage

Pre-event, warm-up massage is a stimulating, superficial, fast-paced, rhythmic massage that lasts 7 to 10 minutes. The emphasis is on the muscle used in the sporting event and the goal is for the athlete to feel his/her body and mind is truly “ready” for the event.

Goals of Pre-event Massage: 

  • increase circulation, help muscles work longer and more efficiently
  • warm-up muscles and tendons (durable hyperemia, more blood to muscles)
  • increase sense of well-being
  • should feel great; builds athletes’ confidence
  • relax muscles
  • produce mental and physical edge
  • increase flexibility

Post-event Massage

Post-event, warm down massage can reduce muscle tension, minimize swelling and soreness, encourage relaxation, and reduce recuperation time. The massage techniques used can spread muscle fibers to minimize fascial adhesions and encourage circulation.

Goals of Post-event massage:

  • to reduce the tension in muscles and connective tissue
  • to reduce peripheral vascular resistance
  • to accelerate drainage of venous blood flow as well as lymphatic fluid
  • to balance

Mid-event (Intercompetition) Massage

Mid-event massage, given during breaks in the event, concentrates on the muscle being used or those about to be used. The techniques are limited to compression only. Generally, only massage therapists familiar with a particular athlete and their sport will give him/her a mid-event massage.

Recovery Massage

Recovery massage is given 4 to 36 hours after an event. It aims to decrease soreness in the whole body, help the athlete relax, and prevent cramping.

Maintenance Massage

On-going massage with client who is an athlete (or very active) to help them function at a higher performance level in his/her sport or activities. Strategizing skills, understanding the biomechanics of specific sport, the use of cryotherapy, and knowledge of injury repair are essential. This is a full body massage, lasting 1 to 1,5 hours.


Feel free to add more info in comments or share your own experience! We all got some stories to tell 🙂 

To Your Health,




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