What is Sports Massage?
Sports massage is a form of massage involving the manipulation of soft tissue to benefit a person engaged in regular physical activity. Soft tissue is connective tissue that has not hardened into bone and cartilage; it includes skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia (a form of connective tissue that lines and ensheathes the other soft tissues). Sports massage is designed to assist in correcting problems and imbalances in soft tissue that are caused from repetitive and strenuous physical activity and trauma. The application of sports massage, prior to and after exercise, may enhance performance, aid recovery and prevent injury.
Massage is recorded as one of the earliest forms of physical therapy and was used over 3000 years ago in China, India and Greece. Its popular use in the Western world is largely due to the work of Per Henrik Ling (1776 - 1839), who developed the form of massage now known as Swedish massage. Ling developed his own style of massage and exercise to help fencers and gymnasts, gaining international recognition in the process. Many of his ideas have formed the foundations of modern sports massage. Today, there are many forms of massage available to assist us in maintaining our health and wellbeing. Sports massage has been accepted in America, Canada and Australia for many years now, while in the UK, the practice only became known and more widely used in the 1990s.
What is Sports Therapy?
Sports Therapy entails a higher level of training that includes a wider set of skills and supporting knowledge. There is general agreement within the UK of some core areas which are essential to sports therapy although the emphasis will vary amongst training providers with some favouring soft tissue therapy and others leaning towards rehabilitation or emergency care. It is wideliy accepted that sports therapy includes:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Sports massage
- Ethics and Professionalism
- Advanced Manual Therapy Skills
- Injury assessment and treatment
- Gait analysis
- Rehabilitation from injury
- First Aid and advanced trauma care
- Taping for Sport
- Other areas sometimes included are Electrotherapy, Strength & Conditioning, and/or Sports Nutrition.
The general area a sports therapist will work in is to help individuals and teams progress from being able to perform normal daily physical functions to sporting and highly skilled activities.
From the mid 1990's onwards, there was a collective effort to establish sports therapy as a 'regulated' profession with protected title through the Health Professions Council (HPC). 'Protected title' would mean that only those who had demonstrated achieving the required standards being allowed to practice under the chosen title; in this case Sports Therapy. The agreement by all those with an interest in this area was that the minimum educational standard to practice in this field would be University Undergraduate level. However, more recently the HPC have restricted applications to those professions where there is deemed to be a risk to the general public. Sports Therapy was not considered to pose any risks and will therefore not be put forward to the HPC unless there is a change in policy in the future. This is not foreseeable at the present time.
Therefore Sports Therapy is currently not regulated although there are membership organisations who continue to promote sports therapy through University programmes. Although these organisations may be highly regarded, they are memberhip rather than recognised educational bodies. This leaves the title of Sports Therapist being one which remains unclear with many Sports Massage and/or Soft Tissue Therapists continuing their training and experience to a level where the service they offer may be regarded under the heading of Sports Therapy.