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Sports and Fitness Massage Certification

Approved for 8 Online Continuing Education Units/Credits (CEU's) for Pennsylvania Licensed Massage Therapists

Receive Your 8 CEU's Now

Approved for 8 Online CEU's for Pennsylvania Licensed Massage Therapists. Cost $100.00 / Certificates Awarded Upon Completion.

Please allow time for your purchase to process. We will contact you via email with instructions to access the online course as soon as your payment is complete. Please make sure your email address is correct. Thank you for your patience. 


Sports massage receives its name from the population it treats, not from the techniques it uses. In other words, sports massage is massage that is done when working with athletes.

An athlete is a person who participates in sports in either an amateur or a professional capacity. As a result of the physical and mental demands of his or her activities, the athlete requires precise use of his or her body. The nervous system and muscles are trained to perform in a specific way. Often the activity involves repetitive use of one group of muscles more than others, which may result in hypertrophy, changes in strength, altered movement patterns, connective tissue formation, and compensation patterns in the rest of the body. These factors contribute to the soft tissue difficulties that often develop in athletes. When the topic is considered in this way, it becomes clear that many people can develop similar conditions, not just those involved in sports-related activity.

Fitness is part of a healthy lifestyle. One aspect of fitness is physical fitness, which requires the physical activity necessary to support optimal well-being. This chapter targets common issues related to physical movement and performance for professional and amateur athletes, as well as for people who enjoy recreational activities or anyone involved in a physical fitness program. In addition, individuals who are entertainers, such as musicians and dancers, share similar issues with those whose occupation involves physical activity, such as construction workers and mechanics. When accumulated strain develops for any reason, the fitness/wellness balance is upset, which results in illness and/or injury. For competing athletes, a major stress factor is the demands of performance. Often performance exceeds an athlete’s fitness level, and this leads to a decrease in overall fitness. Performance demands require increased energy expenditure, which in turn strains adaptive mechanisms and increases recovery time.

The content of this chapter is also appropriate for those receiving physical therapy. It addresses not specific rehabilitation but rather the discomfort that can occur as a result of the rehabilitation activities.

Peak performance is the ultimate level of activity achievable by an individual, but it is a short-term event. Peak performance cannot be sustained for extensive periods of time. Fitness must be achieved before performance, and fitness must be supported for the body to endure the ongoing strain of peak-performance activity. Attempts to continue to perform at peak typically result in injury or illness.

Traumatic injury is an unexpected event that damages the body. Accidents are a common cause of traumatic injury. Rehabilitation from this type of injury often requires physical training. Although persons receiving such therapy may not be athletes, they often experience the same aftermath—postactivity soreness, fatigue, joint pain, and so on. During rehabilitation, restoration of function is a primary goal.


Appropriate treatment plan development and massage application are necessary to prevent injuries. Athletes at peak performance are particularly fragile. This means that any demands to adapt, including those made by massage, need to be assessed in light of the athlete’s adaptive capacity. A lack of understanding of the scope of demands placed on athletes often leads to inappropriate massage care.

Massage can be very beneficial for athletes if the professional performing the massage understands the biomechanics required by the sport. In the absence of such understanding, however, massage can impair optimal function. Any type of massage before a competition must be given carefully. If a massage professional plans to work with an athlete on a continuing basis, it is important that the practitioner come to know the athlete and that the massage become an integral part of the entire training experience.

With athletes, the psychologic state is crucial to performance: often the competition is won in the mind. Although massage therapists are not sports psychologists, athletes often look to them for support, continuity, and feedback. Many athletes are very ritualistic about precompetition readiness. If massage has become part of that ritual and the massage professional is inconsistent in maintaining appointment schedules, the athlete’s performance can be adversely affected.

The experts for athletes are sports medicine physicians, physical therapists, athletic trainers, exercise physiologists, and sports psychologists. It is especially important for athletes to work under the direction of these professionals to ensure that sports form and training protocols are appropriate. Obviously, professional athletes or academic athletes (those in high schools or colleges) are more likely to have access to these professionals than amateur or recreational athletes. Childhood sports and fitness programs such as softball and soccer programs should be supervised by professionally trained coaches and trainers. However, because these programs are often staffed by volunteers, training in fitness conditioning and performance skills varies. Those involved in physical rehabilitation are supervised by a physical therapist or other health professional, such as an exercise physiologist. People engaged in basic physical fitness activities may consult trainers but generally exercise without supervision and then may become hurt because of inappropriate physical activity. These individuals may need to be referred for appropriate training in physical fitness to prevent further injury.

Individuals involved in physical fitness and physical rehabilitation programs are especially sensitive to adaptive strain injuries. Often the best massage approach is the general, nonspecific massage that feels good, calms, and supports sleep. In physiologic terms, this produces parasympathetic dominance in the autonomic nervous system, which supports homeostasis, or self-healing.

In the past, massage for athletes was categorized by when it was given and the outcome of the massage. These categories included pre-event massage, intercompetition massage, recovery massagepost-event massage, maintenance massage, remedial massagemedical massageorthopedic massage, and promotional (event) massage. However, if one is using outcome-based goals, these categories become irrelevant. If massage is being used to assist preexercise warm-up, it should be focused on those goals. Thus to categorize massage as “pre-event” or “post-event” can be misleading. But since the reader may still encounter sports massage presented in these categories (remember, there is no such thing as sports massage per se), it is important to describe each category.

Many researchers maintain that the recuperative benefits of massage may be more psychologic than physiologic. Massage promotes a feeling of well-being and even euphoria. The psychologic benefits of massage include controlled arousal before competition or training and positive mood states. Physical relaxation may improve blood flow and reduce muscle tone and tension in connective tissue. Studies of fascia in humans using electron photomicroscopy found smooth muscle cells widely embedded within the collagen fibers and concluded that these intrafascial smooth muscle cells enable the autonomic nervous system to regulate a fascial pretension independently of muscular tonus.

When the results of various research studies in sports massage are compared, one finds some areas of consensus along with opposing and contradictory opinions. Ongoing research will continue to clarify physiologic mechanisms that underpin the various therapeutic effects. The future will depend on this research and on the continued collaboration of investigators with experts in medicine, physical therapy, and sports performance. The focus of this chapter has been to describe the underlying theme of all of the methods and the relationship to sports and fitness goals, measurable outcomes, and physiologic pleasurable mechanisms even if research has not totally proven the response correlation.

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Receive Your 8 CEU's Now

Approved for 8 Online CEU's for Pennsylvania Licensed Massage Therapists. Cost $100.00 / Certificates Awarded Upon Completion.

Please allow time for your purchase to process. We will contact you via email with instructions to access the online course as soon as your payment is complete. Please make sure your email address is correct. Thank you for your patience.