The sports massage dates back to the ancient Greeks. Unlike many other fads, the practice still plays a key role in the athletic arena. For many elite athletes, it is one of the most essential elements of their training. Massage proponents claim that it improves their training, prevents injuries and hastens recovery. Improving range of motion is another one of its benefits.
The Horse Study
In 1999, a team of researchers in Concord, Massachusetts received a grant to study the effect of sports massage on range of motion in athletes. The study was rather unusual, because it was performed on race horses, instead of humans. The goal of this study was to determine whether therapeutic sports massage could increase an athlete’s range of motion.
Five horses of similar size, breed weight and age participated in the study. Prior to administering the massages, the research team measured the horses’ stride length and frequency of walk and trot, in order to assess their range of motion. Ultrasound images recorded of the diameters of the muscle bellies and tendons of the targeted muscles. After they got their measurements taken, the horses were treated to a 20-minute massage. The therapists used cross fiber friction, direct pressure and compression. At the completion of the massage, the range of motion measurements were taken again.
The researchers reported an increased range of motion in the horses, which was indicated This was demonstrated by an increase in stride length, combined with a decrease in stride frequency. The decrease in stride frequency meant that more distance was covered per stride.
Massage and the Mighty Mitochondria
In another groundbreaking study, researchers at McMaster University in Canada discovered that deep massage after an intense workout triggers muscle enlargement, as well as the growth of new mitochondria. Mitochondria are the power centers of our cells. Their role in converting nutrients into usable energy makes them crucial to athletic performance. Increasing your mitochondria within your cells enhances endurance, by increasing the rate that your muscles can utilize oxygen.
The research team asked their subjects to exercise to exhaustion on stationary bicycles. When the workout completed, each participant received a 10-minute massage on one leg. Muscle biopsies, which had been taken before and after the workout, showed increased muscle size and increased mitochondria in the massaged leg.
Aside from these important benefits, the pressure of massage can also enhance blood flow whilst increasing muscle temperature. A sports massage can also lower your heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety levels, resulting in improved mood and outlook on life. This is exactly what an athlete needs.
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