13 Sports Massage Facts

sports massage facts

With sports massage facts ranging from its history to modern scientific knowledge, we’ve got something for everyone on our list!

But before we share these facts about sports massage, it’s vital you’re as well informed as possible to provide for your clients and what better way to do this than with our Level 3 Sports Massage Course?

Download our complete course prospectus to find your ideal course or enter your details below.

13 Sports Massage Facts

Now, let’s jump into our list of facts about sports massage!

#1 - Sports Massage Is Not Just For Athletes

sports massage facts

If you’re an athlete, you may find sports massages are an important part of your training and recovery routine, as well as a way to incorporate more variety into your training.

However, one of the best facts about sports massage is how it’s suitable for just about everyone - no matter your lifestyle or fitness level.

For example, if you work at a desk you may find sports massage helps with lingering back pain from sitting in the same position all day, especially in conjunction with a posture corrector.

sports massage facts

Sports massages can also soothe sore legs if you’re on your feet all day, such as when working in retail or in a hospital.

Sports massage is aimed at soothing and stretching your muscles to make them more flexible and relaxed, meaning those from any walk of life may benefit.

#2 - Sports Massage Is A Type Of Clinical Massage

sports massage facts

When it comes to massage, most of us probably think of a relaxing time in a spa where we can go and get a massage along with a whole host of other treatments. With sports massage, the facts and realities can be quite different!

Now, this isn’t to say a sports massage can’t have its moments of relaxation. However, this isn’t the focus of the therapy - sports massage is rehabilitative and restorative.

You’re most likely to have one after an injury, or to help manage some type of chronic or onset of pain.

sports massage facts

One of our facts about sports massage is it’s actually a type of clinical massage - a contrast to relaxation massages where the goal is to soothe anxiety and reduce stress.

Clinical massages focus on treating the soft tissue to help maintain or develop physical function of the joints and muscles.

As we’ll see below, sports massage uses different techniques to manipulate the muscles at a deeper or more concentrated level in order to aid recovery or release muscle tension, making it more medical in nature.


Advance Your Career as a Sports Massage Therapist

Continue developing your knowledge with our Level 3 Sports Massage Course.

#3 - Sports Massage Therapists Need Specific Qualifications

sports massage facts

One important fact about sports massage therapists is that they require specific qualifications to legally operate in the UK - just like any other massage therapist.

This is essential knowledge whether you’re looking for a therapist or even looking to pursue a sports massage therapist career.

At a minimum, a sports massage therapist in the UK should have a Level 3 Sports Massage Therapy qualification, which is an entry-level course they can build on in the future.

This is because sports massage often involves addressing contraindications or treating some form of injury or painful area, meaning your therapist needs to know how to approach any treatment with a plan in place

With sports massage, the fact is a therapist could make it worse if they’re underqualified, so they need the course to prove they’re suitable for the job.

#4 - Sports Massage Requires Extra Knowledge and Skills

sports massage facts

Another fact about sports massage therapy is how it requires a whole host of extra knowledge and skills compared to other types of massage.

Sports massage uses a combination of the techniques found in regular massages and some of their own, including:

  • Effleurage: These are the longer, extended strokes to start stretching the muscles and increasing circulation.
  • Petrissage: Kneading movements that are deeper than effleurage and require more pressure.
  • Myofascial Release: MFR is a sports massage technique that works to stretch the fascia (connective tissues in the body) to relieve pain.

You can read our article, if you would like to learn more about becoming a Self-Myofascial Release Therapist.

Sports massage therapists also require more in depth knowledge of anatomy in order to properly assess injuries and safely decide on a treatment plan for an individual. 

This is also one of the benefits of sports massage therapy as customers receive this tailored plan to help treat their injuries in the most effective way.

#5 - Sports Massage Dates Back To The Ancient World

sports massage facts

We may think of it as a modern phenomena but sports massage dates back to thousands of years ago.

For example, in Ancient India c. 3000 BCE, massage therapy was used to: 

  • Treat pain
  • Cure injuries
  • Even prevent the onset of illness

Meanwhile, Ancient China used different sports massage techniques to rebalance energies in the body and treat illnesses as early as 2700 BCE. 

In the West, the benefits and facts about sports massage were popularised by Ancient Greek and Roman medical scholars in various medical treatises.

Both the Greek Hippocrates and the Roman Galen were firm supporters of sports massage as treatment for athletes from Greek sportsmen to Roman gladiators. 

They believed massage was an important part of the training regime for athletes before and after competition to:

  • Reduce fatigue
  • Treat any signs of overtraining
  • Improve their performance

#6 - The First Modern Educational School For ‘Sports Massage’ Was In Sweden

sports massage facts

One of the most interesting sports massage facts is how the first educational school to teach massage as part of the curriculum was in Sweden.

Pehr Henrik Ling is considered one of the fathers of modern gymnastics. He also rediscovered and repopularised the benefits of sports massage as pain management and treatment for injury.

A sufferer of chronic pain himself, Ling used several different massage techniques such as pressing and kneading on his arm to relieve the pain of gout and rheumatism in his programme (combined with an exercise regime involving calisthenics training).

sports massage facts

It’s these techniques that were evolved into the mainstays of Swedish and sports massage we know today. This was by Dutch Dr Johann Mezger, who is credited with codifying the techniques into a formal massage programme.

In response to his ‘discovery’, Ling founded the Royal Central Gymnastic Institute in 1813 in his native Sweden. This institute taught a course on ‘medical gymnastics’ and included massage as part of the treatment plan of the affected areas to manage pain.

It was these accepted facts about sports massage that led to the public re-engaging with this form of medical treatment in the 19th and 20th Century.


Advance Your Career as a Sports Massage Therapist

Continue developing your knowledge with our Level 3 Sports Massage Course.

#7 - Modern Sports Massage Became Most Popular During 20th Century

facts about sports massage

With the rediscovery of sports massage in the 19th Century, it went on to become even more popular throughout the 20th Century.

This was especially true in the professional athletic world, with the medical benefits and facts about sports massage being demonstrated over and over by different sporting stars.

For example, in the 1924 Olympics Paavo ‘The Flying Finn’ Nurmi was famous for winning 5 gold medals in one day, with only 30 minute breaks between events! 

Nurmi brought his own personal sports massage therapist to the games and credited part of his success to these regular treatments helping his recovery.

Similarly, in the 1972 Olympic Games, Lasse Viren, another ‘Flying Finn’, ran the 5k and 10k in record breaking times. This caused a resurgence of interest in sports massage (especially in the US) after it was revealed he received daily massages as part of his training regime.

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After reading our facts about sports massages, are you thinking of becoming one yourself? If so, check out these articles:

#8 - Sports Massage Helps With Recovery And Injury Prevention

facts about sports massage

We’ve touched on this topic throughout the article but one of the best sports massage facts is that it can actively help with post exercise recovery and overall injury prevention.

A review from 2005 discusses a study by Rodenburg et al, examining the effects of sports massage on DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

In the study, 50 participants were split into 2 groups: 

  • The first was a control group
  • The second received a 15 minute sports massage 15 minutes after exercise

Results showed muscle soreness was lower with the massaged group and further found they returned to normal strength quicker as well! 

facts about sports massage

This shows sports massage is in fact much more beneficial for athletes than it was first thought.

One of the facts about sports massage is that it increases your range of motion and overall muscular flexibility. It’s this trait that is thought to help prevent injury as the muscles are already primed for movement and less likely to strain easily.

Of course, this is no replacement for a traditional warm up but a sports massage can definitely help motion and flexibility in the long run, resulting in less injuries in future.

#9 - Traditional Sports Massages Come In 3 Forms

facts about sports massage

When it comes to sports massage facts, one that’s worth knowing is traditional sports massages come in 3 formats. These can vary depending on when and why you’re having the massage, so it’s definitely important information.

Each type of sports massage has its own benefits and should be undertaken appropriately. 

The 3 forms are:

  • Pre-Event: This is a sports massage you have up to 48 hours before a sporting event and is focused around helping you warm up and get your muscles ready. This type uses a lighter pressure as you don’t want to overwork your body before competing. Instead, you want to increase circulation and muscle flexibility.
  • Post-Event: You’ll want a post-event massage fairly soon after the end of the event. This type is designed to help relax and soothe the muscles, increasing your recovery rate. Post-event massages can be part of a cool down routine and help clear toxins and reduce swelling in the muscles. 
  • Maintenance Massage: Maintenance sports massages are for in between competitions, usually incorporated into a training regime.

These focus on helping treat any pain or injuries, as well as working to: 

  • Improve flexibility
  • Posture
  • Muscle strength

#10 - Timing Matters In Sports Massage

facts about sports massage

As sports massage facts go, it might surprise you to know timing is actually very important - both for how long and when you should have a treatment.

One of the facts about sports massage we’ve already touched on is how it’s a clinical form of massage. For the treatment to work effectively, a sports massage needs to last for at least 15 minutes, otherwise you won’t get the full benefits.

Unlike relaxation massages that last around 60-90 minutes on average, sports massages tend to fall in the range of 30-60 minutes (although they could reach up to 75 minutes with an assessment included).

facts about sports massage

This gives the therapist plenty of time to concentrate on any problem areas and avoid overworking your muscles.

The timing of massages before and after events is also crucial so you can get the full benefit of the therapy.

Pre-events can be up to 48 hours beforehand or as close as 30-90 minutes before you compete, depending on your personal training plan. Post-events should be as soon as you can allow it for the best results.


Advance Your Career as a Sports Massage Therapist

Continue developing your knowledge with our Level 3 Sports Massage Course.

#11 - Sports Massage Is Highly Personalised

facts about sports massage

When it comes to sports massage, the fact is that the reasons for treatment are highly individualised, so it would make sense the therapy is too. 

Everyone is different and will have their own reasons for attending a sports massage clinic. When someone chooses to become a sports massage therapist, they will have been taught how to treat each case on an individual basis.

A sports massage therapist will use a personalised treatment plan to meet the needs of the situation.

This plan could include a variety of techniques to treat your injury or help manage pain such as:

  • Swedish massage
  • Deep tissue massage 
  • Myofascial release 

As part of your sports massage, the therapist will also be able to offer you personalised advice for how to continue to improve outside of the clinic. 

This could include information about posture and movement or certain stretches you can do at home to help with your sports massage aftercare.

Your injury or recovery is personal and sports massage is versatile enough to meet your needs.

#12 - Sports Massage Is Goal Oriented

facts about sports massage

As well as being personalised, another fact about sports massage is how it’s typically goal oriented.

Clients can attend a sports massage clinic for loads of different reasons such as:

  • Requiring treatment post-injury
  • It being part of their overall training programme
  • Needing help managing chronic pain from daily life

Whatever the reasons someone has going in, sports massages factor these in and build a plan around an end result - usually for full recovery or symptom management.

facts about sports massage

To this end, sports massage is often part of a longer and more detailed treatment plan instead of a one off session.

At the first session, you should expect to have an assessment with the therapist in order to work out your long term SMART goals and what you want to achieve by the end of your treatment plan. 

Overall, one of the key sports massage facts that sets it apart from other types of massage is that it’s much more focused on long term goals.

#13 - It’s Normal To Feel Sore After A Sports Massage

facts about sports massage

Another of the important sports massage facts to know about is that it’s completely normal to feel sore after a sports massage.

This is because the active manipulation of your muscles can be uncomfortable, especially if you’re not used to certain movements.

Massages stimulate your muscles similarly to a workout - they’re warmed up and manipulated to improve flexibility and release any tension. It’s perfectly normal to feel some discomfort both during and after the therapy.

facts about sports massage

If you’re having a sports massage to help with injury recovery you can also expect to feel a little sore around the site of your injury both before and afterwards.

This is because your body is noticing where you carry tension, so you’re more aware of tight spots after a massage that’s worked to get rid of them.

On the whole, any soreness you do feel should resolve itself over the next few days, much like post-workout fatigue. This is why it’s important to value the importance of rest days!

Before You Go!

As we’ve piqued your interest with our list of sports massage facts, why not continue developing your interest with our Level 3 Sports Massage Course?

Find the ideal course for you by downloading our full prospectus or simply leave your details below.


  • Moraska, A., 2005, ‘Sports Massage: A Comprehensive Review’ in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 45:370-80.

Written by Rachel Stevens

Content Writer & Fitness Enthusiast

Rachel is a freelance content writer and fitness enthusiast based in Liverpool. She completed her BA (Hons) in Egyptology and Ancient History, followed by a MA in Ancient History, at the University of Liverpool. She has a keen interest in many water-based sports, like kayaking, in which she holds a 1-star qualification with the intention of progressing further. She is an avid reader, runner and yoga enthusiast.

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