The History of Sports Massage
Posted on 8th April 2021 at 10:00
Sports massage may seem like quite a new concept to many people, but its origins can be traced far back into history. But who was first to use it? And how did it become used in the way it is today?
Early use of massage and reflexology
Early use of massage and reflexology can be traced all the way back to ancient Egyptian times! Decorations on the tomb of Ptahhotep (a Vizer during the reign of Djedkare) show Ptahhotep having a manicure and pedicure and also receiving a massage from his servants. It’s likely that the purpose of these massages was very different from the modern-day sports massage but it’s interesting to know that Egyptians enjoyed pampering!
There are also a few other examples of massage scattered throughout ancient Egyptian times. Being more specific to the modern-day sports massage, examples can be traced to the days of gladiators in Greece and Rome. Galen (AD 30-200) who was a renowned Roman physician would “prescribe massage to gladiators both before and after exercising.” If it’s good enough for the gladiators then it’s good enough for us! Other examples of massage being used in ancient times include in India and China. As far back as 100AD, the first school of massage was created in China.
The Development of Sports Massage
Sports massage has for a long time now been widely used across Europe. In 1812, Swedish fencing master and gymnast Pehr Henrik Ling combined the stroke techniques of what is now known as “Swedish massage” with remedial exercises, naming it “kinesiotherapy.” Ling reportedly cured his own injured elbow using tapping (percussion) techniques around the affected area.
The modern history of sports massage started in Paris in 1924 at the Olympic games. Paavo Nurmi “the flying Finn” from Finland brought his own personal massage therapist whilst competing in running competitions and with treatment between events was able to win an impressive 5 gold medals in one day, including the 1.5k and 5k with only a half hour gap between events. He credited special massage treatment as one of the most important factors of his training program contributing to his success. This created quite a stir and prompted other trainers to begin incorporating these treatments into their athletes’ training and recovery programs. While sports massage had a long history of use throughout the 20th century in Europe, it did not have quite the same rich history over in America. Not until 1972 when an outstanding performance by Lasse Viren, a Finnish track and field competitor in the Olympic games brought the attention to sports massage was sports massage influential in the field of actual sports. Viren credited deep friction sports massage to his incredible performances in winning the 5000 and 10 000 metre runs. It wasn’t until a bit further down the line some years later when the term “sports massage” was actually coined. This was down to an American horse trainer named John Meagher when he released a book detailing massage and injury related exercise techniques.
Massage therapy today
This is of course a very brief insight into the world of the origins of sports massage. Massage has origins rooted deep in the past and has evolved in many ways to provide different techniques and uses in modern day lives from relaxation to restorative and remedial. It continues to evolve with the advances of science discovering new information, influencing how massage is administered and for what purposes.
In the present day it’s used significantly in sports behind the scenes - even in sports we watch every day such as Premier League football. Currently on Amazon there’s a behind-the-scenes documentary called “All or nothing” which follows several teams including Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester City. In this documentary you can clearly see the importance of sports massage therapists in maintaining the teams’ optimum levels of performance.
Obviously with athletes of any level doing their best to maintain performance is key to improvement and injury management, sports massage therapy is imperative to that.
Maybe you’ve always wanted to know how to ease your own pains or get rid of knots in other people’s shoulders? If you’d like to learn more about sports massage, why not do a course with us? Drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org to unlock a new skill and perhaps even a new vocation.
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