Sports Massage for Everyday Athletes

Winter is a great time to be a sports fan. Whether you’re hosting a Super Bowl party, attending regular season hockey or basketball games, or just really love keeping up on Australian cricket, there’s always something exciting going on in the world of sport to keep you distracted from the shorter days and gloomy weather.

But as a massage therapist, the winter season might have you worrying less about Rob Gronkowski’s broken arm, and more about the kinds of sports injuries you see in your own community all the time. There’s the New Year’s resolution crowd with their squeaky-clean running shoes and pulled hamstrings. The teenage girl who twists her ankle falling at the skating rink. The guy who didn’t think he’d have to train much to compete in a Tough Mudder event, and who now hurts “everywhere.” These injuries are different from the injuries that get talked about endlessly on ESPN, but can often be more serious.

Sports massage expert Earl Wenk has firsthand experience with both. He was at the London Olympics as the personal massage therapist for a competing athlete, and will soon be traveling to the World Figure Skating Championships to support several clients there. Athletes that Wenk has worked with include many who compete at the very highest levels in their respective sports. Surprisingly, though, Wenk feels working with amateur athletes to be much more challenging than serving the Olympic set.

There are a number of factors that can lead to increased rates of injury among recreational athletes. Inexperience is a huge factor, as those who aren’t very aware of their own bodies are also unaware of their physical limitations. Lack of information (or even outright misinformation) about the body can lead to poor training habits. And less time for consistent training means that people become “weekend warrior” types, trying to crunch a week’s worth of practice into just a couple of days, which can be a recipe for disaster.

But Wenk feels there’s also an important difference in attitude between professional and recreational athletes. He explains, “When faced with a significant injury, a competitive athlete will understand they have to rest or cross-train in order to let the injury heal. There is no point for them to compete unless they can perform at a high level.” But the enthusiastic amateurs? “They can become so passionate about their training that it makes it more difficult for them to properly recover from injury,” Wenk says.

Given that Leo Messi probably doesn’t live on your block but an ultimate frisbee enthusiast or Saturday tennis player probably does, how can you help?

Running guyFirst, it’s important to develop an understanding of the sport in question. Unsurprisingly, skiing and swimming don’t use the same muscles! Don’t be afraid to ask your clients questions about exactly what it is they do when they train. If you’d like to get great at working with ballroom dancing injuries (and there are plenty of them!), you’ll obviously want to spend time learning about the mechanics of ballroom dancing, but even that will never replace open communication. At the amateur level, training programs vary wildly, so make sure you don’t get caught up in assumptions about what one particular athlete is or isn’t doing.

Secondly, it’s important to have a solid understanding of the assessment, treatment, and prevention of injuries in general. Your basic massage education provides the foundation for this understanding, but more advanced training from a reputable sports massage therapist will help to build on this foundational knowledge to give you the skills you need in order to help athletes at all levels.

Not sure you’re ready to commit to an extensive educational program right now? No problem. Earl Wenk taught Sports Massage for the Weekend Warrior at the March 5, 2013 Tools for Touch webinar. Even if you missed it, you can still learn firsthand from this seasoned professional the tools needed to help amateur athletes survive, even thrive, while training in the sports they love.

Registration is still open – details here.  Sign up now – your active clients will be so glad you did.

Healthy regards,

The At Peace Massage | Tools for Touch™ CE Webinars team