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Role of a Sports Massage Therapist

Updated February 28, 2017

A sports massage therapist is a trained individual who helps an athlete reach optimal performance and treats sports related injuries. Sports massage therapists have completed specific schooling and training to be certified as a massage therapist. While sports massage is designed for athletes, anyone with an injury, chronic pain or issues with range of motion could benefit from this form of massage.

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A sports massage therapist uses a specific type of massage to help an athlete's body reach peak performance, to relieve swelling, to reduce muscle tension and to promote flexibility.

Through massage, the therapist helps to relieve tension and stress that has built up in the athlete's soft tissues. This stress and tension is typically due to physical activity, overuse or overexertion. In addition to relieving tension and stress, sports massage can prevent injuries because it helps keep muscles flexible, as reported by Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals.


A sports massage therapist will often use a blend of compression, deep Swedish massage, cross-fibre massage, trigger-point massage and lymphatic massage. By applying these techniques, therapists can help restore function to muscles and joints. Each sport requires a specific form of this massage. Sports massage therapists are trained to address specific concerns pertaining to individual sports, like a shoulder for a tennis player.

A pre-event massage typically occurs 15 to 45 minutes before the event, and it helps to warm up the muscles of the body.

A post-event sports massage session is given within one to two hours of the competition, and it helps to alleviate stress and to reduce pain and soreness.

A sports massage maintenance program is given regularly during training to help an athlete train longer and harder.

Finally, if athletes become injured, they might have several sports massage sessions to help their body recover.


Athletes often use a sports massage therapist before, during or after competition. Additionally, many athletes use sports massage as part of their daily workout program. Using sports massage as a maintenance technique has shown to promote athletic endurance, performance and reduce recovery times, according to Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals.


In addition to sports-related benefits, CNN Health reports that this form of massage can help to reduce blood pressure, heart rate and tension; increase blood circulation; and relieve pain.


To become a certified sports massage therapist, individuals go through a lengthy program, typically between seven to 12 months long, to receive training in a range of massage techniques, anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, application of massage and the effects and benefits of massage. To be a certified sports massage therapist, one must pass the National Certification Exam in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Most states require sports massage therapists to have completed this exam to practice.

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About the Author

Fitzalan Gorman

Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.

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