Massage at Sporting Events – Pre-Event Massage

approx 880 Words

Massage at Sporting Events – Pre-Event Massage

Today we carry on the theme of Sporting Events Massage and the role of therapists by looking at Pre-event massage used before competitions or training, it is adapted to the specific sport context or an athletes personal requirements. The pre-event massage prepares an athlete for intense activity by loosening the muscles without decreasing their psychological focus or causing significant physiological changes to their bodies.

Massage is usually given 30 minutes to 2 hours before competition lasting just 10-20 minutes. Stimulating techniques such as hacking, kneading, beating/pounding and active isolated stretching are used, it is vigorous and prepares mentally for performance. It can also be a psychological relaxing experience decreasing stress levels and calming nerves.

Physical Benefits of Pre-Event Massage

The physical effects of Pre Event Massage are many, we will take a look at a few :

  • Increased Temperature
  • Decreased cortisol
  • Increased tissue elasticity
  • Maximise Performance
  • Tight Muscles release
  • Joint Mobility

Increased Temperature: Massage increases the temperature of the muscles before exercise to prepare for activity. Superficial friction against the skin creates local heating with more blood flow to the tissues, this increase of blood enhances the delivery of oxygen and nutrients that are needed to fuel and repair muscle tissues.

Decreased cortisol: Before important competition the body becomes nervous, cortisol increases with stress and anxiety causing constriction of blood vessels. Massage decreases cortisol the hormone that is released from the adrenals by stimulating the release of positive and relaxing hormones such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. As these hormones are stimulated, cortisol is reduced over-riding the psychological and physiological effects of the Cortisol.

Increased tissue elasticity: Having a pre-event massage can take the place of a localised muscle group warm-up or act as a supplement to one, accomplishing many of the same goals. It is also useful for stretching the tissues in preparation by helping increase tissue elasticity allowing more flexibility, preventing injuries and increasing the range of movement around a joint. This is achieved by increasing the temperature of the muscles which allows them to relax.

Maximise Performance: A pre event massage can help maximise performance for many reasons, including increased blood supply, joint mobility, improved mental outlook and stretched tissues. Creating a balance of movement in the muscles and joints will give optimum physical performance from the athlete. Increasing blood supply before activity is important as increasing temperature of the muscles can help them to perform better and limit the chances of injury.

Tight Muscles release: A massage of any kind always reduces tight muscles which can occur for many reasons including poor posture, stress and exercise, the effects of tight muscles increases tension and can lead to muscle spasm, and pain, this can affect the range of movement around a joint causing injuries. Treating tight muscles before exercise prevents injuries and helps enhance performance

Joint Mobility: Having pre-event massage can assist the performer with mobility of the joints. Flexible joints can be an important advantage especially in activities where being limber is important, however this type of massage in sports where speed is the ultimate goal can actually slow an athlete down slightly if the massage is performed immediately before the event. So massages are always timed and techniques tailored to the athlete and their individual needs.

Psychological Benefits

Besides the physiological benefits of a pre-event sports massage, many unique psychological benefits are gained that can help the athlete too.

Firstly, they may gain confidence that any perceived muscle issues are being corrected leaving them to compete at their highest level in competition. Many athletes take massage as part of their pre-game ritual as it helps them focus, similar to listening to a specific song before every competition or game. They are commonly very habitual and and can even be superstitious.

Stress: Massage is an effective tool used on the athletes before activity to reduce stress both mentally and physically. Pre event massage stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system in the body decreasing the stress hormones from being released. High levels of stress and anxiety can have a negative effect on the body resulting in constricted blood vessels, muscular tension, reduced flexibility and function of the muscles, therefore affecting athletic performance negatively. So physically it leaves muscles relaxed and more flexible, psychologically it leaves the athlete more relaxed, focused, confident and ready to perform with a healthier amount of pre nervous tension.

Improved Mental Outlook: Massage feels good and is an enjoyable way to unwind before an event. Although an athlete does not want to become too relaxed it can help with pre-event jitters improving mental outlook and enthusiasm for the event or performance helping mentally for athletes and non-athletes alike.


Whatever the sport or competition Pre-Event Massage will always bring benefits. Planning in advance helps to ensure you have the right team available to cover your specific needs, for instance at track events where there are different disciplines taking place it is possible to have a therapist for each discipline or if you have a general area for therapists then it is always important that the athletes communicate their sport to allow the therapists to prepare them accordingly.

Original Photo credit: TORCH MAGAZINE on Visualhunt / CC BY-NC

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