Sports massage is designed to enhance athletic performance and recovery. There are three contexts in which sports massage can be useful to an athlete: pre-event, post-event, and injury treatment. Pre-event massage is delivered at the performance site, usually with the athlete fully clothed.
Fast-paced and stimulating, it helps to establish blood flow and to warm up muscles. During the massage, the athlete generally focuses on visualizing the upcoming event. Post-event massage is also delivered on site, through the clothes. The intent here is to calm the nervous system and begin the process of flushing toxins and waste products out of the body. Post-event massage can reduce recovery time, enabling an athlete to resume training much sooner than rest alone would allow.
When an athlete sustains an injury, skillful massage therapy can often speed and improve the quality of healing.
Sports massage is a direct descendant of Swedish massage because both techniques help heal injuries like muscle sprain and spasms. Many of the techniques of sports massage such as strokes applied in the direction of the heart are borrowed from Swedish massage. This technique is just as important for athletes as it is for relaxation – the body is encouraged to disperse lactic acids in the muscles in order to make room for a fresh supply of blood and oxygen.