Massage in the Olympics

History of massage in Olympics

The Olympic stage is the final destination of an elite athlete’s hard work and an amazing spectacle for all sport lovers. Sports massage has always played an important role in the Olympics to ensure an athlete can bring their A game.  It is dated way back to 776 BC, were athletes received massage treatment pre and post event to aid their muscles and help with recovery. With that being said it was not until 2004 in the Athens gamess when massage became an official part of the event being categorised under recreation and shared rooms with computer labs and social lounges.

Since then massage therapy has grown within the Olympics as it is now under the medical category because it is deemed crucial to the well-being and performance of the athletes.

Benefits of massage to athletes

There are four types of massage treatment that are administered to athletes during the Olympics.

1.       Pre event massage – this type of massage is usually fast pace, brisk and delivered to the athlete 20/30 minutes before the event. It will focus on key muscles that the athlete will use in the event and use techniques such as petrissage/frictions and compressions to warm and increase circulation to the area. In addition to this the pre event massage may also be used to work on range of movement to support joint mobility.

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In the picture above the athlete is getting a quadriceps massage, a lot of Olympic events will place a heavy workload on the quadriceps such as 100m/200m, long jump & triple jump and cycling events, therefore it’s important to relieve tension and allow them to function optimally.

2.       Maintenance massage – this is applied in between events and is used to encourage the well-being of an athlete, from their strength, flexibility, coordination, posture, biomechanics, scar tissue and to any existing injuries that can be worked on. Furthermore within this phase massage can be used as a prevention tool for injuries.

3.       Post event massage – this will be administered straight after the event and is aimed to reduce delayed onset muscles soreness (DOMS), inflammation causes muscles to ache 48 hours after strenuous activity. Massage helps to increase blood circulation to the area and remove toxins therefore speeding the healing process up and reducing cramp and pain levels.

4.       Rehabilitation massage – as athletes are pushing themselves to the limit often muscles tear, cramp, bruise and ache. Therefore rehabilitation massage is aimed at helping the recovery of the muscles, speeding up the healing process and decreasing pain levels.

Professional athletes rely on their bodies to function optimal to be able to perform at their best and compete for gold medals. For this reason, in this present day sports massage is considered a fundemental part of an athlete’s training regime and a critical factor on their performance. A lot of athletes state that sports massage is their secret weapon and feel better than ever from having it.  

However, it isn’t only Olympians that can benefit from sports massage, every day people like you and me who take part in local level sport right through to those who don't participate in any sporting activity can feel the benefits from treatment. Our aim as therapists is to help anyone suffering with aches and pains, injuries or mental health issues such as stress.

I know I will be watching the games over the next week, I hope you enjoy and get inspired!

Jordan Taylor