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Sports Massage

This article from 9/23/2008 was sent to me on sports massage. Pretty nice read. I am trying to get the full study that they quote in the article so that I can do a research review here. Usually studies in sports massage therapy are difficult for a variety of reasons. Anyway, hope you enjoy it.

If anyone is looking for this kind of work in the Phoenix area, don't hesitate to contact me!


Article Located Here

Study: Massage does help with muscle recovery

By Cynthia Billhartz Gregorian


Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps got a massage twice a day in Beijing. His teammate, Dara Torres, had two massage therapists on stand-by.

And a bunch of sedated rabbits in Ohio recently had massage performed on their legs after bouts of intense exercise.

Phelps, 23, made history by winning eight gold medals. Torres, 41, became the oldest swimmer to compete in an Olympic event and win a silver medal.

As for the rabbits? They might have proved scientifically what athletes and trainers have long believed: Massage really does help with muscle recovery.

According to a recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers at Ohio State University found that Swedish massage helped speed muscle recovery at the cellular level for rabbits who got mechanically intense exercise.

Athletes also use Swedish massage _ stroking, kneading and pressing soft tissue. Thomas Best, professor of family medicine at Ohio State University and senior author of the rabbit study, said it's too soon for clinical trials on humans. But he considers the rabbits a strong start toward confirming massage's benefits to athletes.

Best said he hopes further research "will dictate how much massage is needed, for how long and when it should be performed after exercise."

In the study, researchers used a mechanical device to create a motion similar to the way quadriceps in human thighs move when running downhill.

Afterward, some rabbits got Swedish massage, others did not but were rested. Scientists found that the muscles of the massaged rabbits had improved function, less swelling and fewer signs of inflammation than did muscles in non-massaged rabbits.


Those findings don't surprise Jim Anderson, athletic trainer for the St. Louis Rams. He remembers players getting massaged 25 years ago. More than half the players get massages now, he said. They hire their own massage therapists, who massage them the day after a game, Anderson said. Many follow up with another the day before a game to loosen their muscles, a process that relaxes them mentally.

"The way their bodies feel after a game, if something can alleviate that pain and soreness, they look at it as something good," Anderson said. "It gets fresh (oxygenated) blood in there, and getting fresh blood to an area helps speed recovery."

Muscles produce lactic acid during intense workouts, said Ethel Frese, a professor of physical therapy at St. Louis University and a cardiovascular and pulmonary specialist. The more intense the workout, the more lactic acid is produced. And the greater the accumulation of lactic acid, the more fatigued _ and painful _ the muscle becomes.

Lactic acid will dissipate on its own, but enhancing blood circulation helps get rid of it quicker. That helps relieve muscle cramps and spasms, she said.

Rams players make six- and often seven-figure salaries so they can afford massages whenever they want. College athletic programs and their athletes, on the other hand, usually can't afford such luxuries.

At Washington University, for instance, a chiropractic-massage therapist visits once a week, providing services to the all student athletes. But the time slots are limited.

Meanwhile Rick Larsen, head athletic trainer, and his team of therapists provide physical therapy, which might include massage of specific body parts, to injured athletes.

"We use it as an adjunct for other types of modalities that enhance the healing process, such as electronic muscle stimulation, heat, cold, ultrasound," Larsen said.

Swim coach Brad Shively estimates that if Washington U. has 300 athletes, a third of them could benefit greatly from massage at any given time.

"Massage makes a great difference," Shively said. "My swimmers use rollers on their legs and shoulders after intense workouts, and it's manual and self-applied, but it works."

At national competitions, he said, it's not unusual for swim teams _ Division I ones in particular _ to bring their own massage therapists.


Cynthia Riberio, vice president of the American Massage Therapy Association, says she has trained several thousand therapists specifically for sports massage. Today, there are more than 265,000 massage therapists nationwide and, of those, 40 percent provide sports massage. Massage therapists have become an established part of many athletes' training teams, which include doctors, chiropractors, psychologists and nutritionists.

Referrals are often made to massage therapists when, for example, athletes complain of sciatic pain that physicians and psychologists can't find an explanation for. Fatigued muscles can get so tight that they press on nerves, producing pain.

But Riberio has seen massage go beyond just helping with recovery from injuries and suggests using it during all phases of competition.

Before athletic events, a massage therapist can help athletes warm up by jostling and stretching the muscles and using circular friction and simple compression on specific body parts. This can continue, only more gently, during competition when the muscles are fatigued. And after an event, Swedish massage is best, Riberio said.

That's up for debate, says Mark Frank of St. Louis Rehabilitative and Sports Massage in Creve Coeur, Mo. He says there are about 200 approaches to massage and that he's had success with myofascial therapy which targets tissue rather than specific muscles.

Whatever the case, experts have long touted other means of reducing soreness and swelling after hard, prolonged exercise, such as icing overworked muscles, taking anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and properly cooling down. Cool-downs, during which activity is gradually decreased rather than abruptly stopping, prevents lactic acid from pooling in tired muscles.

Frese thinks massage also may do something else: promote the release of endorphins, a natural sedative that alleviates pain and produces a general sense of well-being. Massage is also more beneficial as athletes age, she said.

"The more fit you are, the less lactic acid you produce at a given workload and the faster you clear it," she said. "As you age, you're not as fit. You'll never be at 70 what you were at 20 and you do tend to lose flexibility."

Has anyone told Dara Torres?