Talk the Talk: Massage therapists in a sports massage environment are going to need a better-than-average understanding of anatomy and physiology, along with kinesiology, pathology and orthopedic assessment. You are going to have to be able to communicate with other members of the sports health care team using correct anatomic terminology and descriptions. "We also have to understand the different between sprain and strain, severity and stage of healing, and treatment and rehabilitation," says Pat Archer, licensed massage therapist and certified athletic trainer in Seattle, Washington.
Research, Research, Research: Being well-versed in the latest research is also an important aspect of working in sports massage. You need to be aware of research that is evidence of what massage therapy can do while steering clear of the gray areas, or the theories that haven't been proven—or worse, have been disproved. Archer gives the following example: talking about how massage therapy helps remove or break up lactic acid, which is something, according to Archer, many in the sports health care field have known isn't true for decades. "We lose credibility when we continue to make claims that other sports health care professionals know to be erroneous or misleading," she adds.
Be Specific About the Benefits: There are a lot of well-supported benefits surrounding massage therapy, such as improved sleep patterns, identifying areas of tension and soreness and addressing them before injury occurs, as well as improving range of motion and reducing muscle spasms and cramps. Focus your attention on these effects of massage therapy, as they're particularly relevant to a sports massage environment.
Understand the Sport: Archer is clear about the fact that you don't have to be an expert—or play—the sport you work within, but you do have to have some idea about how it's done. "Therapists need to know about the training regimen and competitive practices of the sport so they can ask relevant questions," she advises. Also helpful is having a basic understanding of the athletes' training schedules. When do they do weights? What do the aerobic workouts look like, and when do the athletes taper or intensify training? Knowing this information helps practitioners know when massage therapy will be most effective.
For more information, check out the following resources:
The Girl Factor
Practicing Sports Massage