Sports Massage – Post-Event

The purpose of a massage
after a major event is simply to aid the
athlete to recover from the activity. This
is achieved by reducing post-exercise
soreness, re-establishing full range of
motion and enhancing blood flow to tight
muscles. The length of recovery time from
strenuous competition can be dramatically
reduced with a good post-event massage.
Studies have found that correctly applied
massage in the first two hours after
activity can be critical for reducing the
effect of delayed onset muscle soreness
(1). Although they could not detect any
change in measured physiological variables,
post-event massage did lower the intensity
of delayed onset muscle soreness. Post-
event massage can also be employed after
(heavy) training sessions as well as

The primary goal of post-event massage is
very similar to that of pre-event massage
(2), namely promotion of circulation and to
lengthen tight muscles. However, the
difference is that the muscles are now in a
state of congestion and fatigue following
maximal effort and performance. Therefore
the objective is to increase the athlete’s
rate of recovery by decreasing soreness and
fatigue, speeding up the removal of
metabolic by-products and relieving the
increased tone of the muscles. Please note
that the delayed onset muscle soreness is
not caused by lactic acid build-up as is
commonly espoused. Current research
suggests that the delayed soreness may be
caused by – microtrauma of the muscle
fibres – a micro-tearing of the fascia –
the pain-ischemia-pain cycle resulting from
overuse, oedema and inflammation or – a
combination of all of these.

A post-event massage is typically administered for around 10 to
15 minutes. Even 5 minutes on the legs after a City to Surf type
event is beneficial. It is certainly not a full-body massage. For
example, a typical post-event leg routine might consist of:

– compressive effleurage to calm the nervous system
– compression for spreading muscle fibres and also
enhancing blood flow
– petrissage for easing muscle tension and
– compressive effleurage as a finishing stroke to soothe.
Depending upon the circumstances, the therapist may
consider that some gentle therapeutic stretching may be

When performing post-event massage, the massage therapist
is much more likely to encounter athletes that require
first aid. During the massage the therapist should watch
for cuts, scrapes, blisters, bruises and mild strains and
sprains. However, it should be noted that, depending on
the training of the therapist, providing first aid is
generally not within the scope of practice for massage
therapy. When a sports massage therapist suspects that an
athlete has a problem, they should seek the help of a
qualified medical staff member at the event.

Although most athletes carry out a warm-down routine after
training sessions, they often fail to do so after
competition because of exhaustion, elation or even
disappointment. An effective post-event massage can help
an athlete feel better immediately following a competition.
Along with a big psychological lift, it can allow the
athlete to recover mor quickly. Almost all athletes look
forward to seeing massage therapists at an event because
they know that they will enjoy a well-deserved post-event

(1) “Massage decreases intensity of delayed soreness”. J.E.
Hilbert, G.A. Sforzo and T. Swensen. British Journal of
Sports Medicine 2003. Issue 37. pp72-75.
(2) “Sports Massage – Pre-Event”. R. Lane.

About the Author:

Richard Lane is a qualified remedial and sports massage
therapist, with a mobile massage practice in Sydney’s Inner
West ( Health fund rebates.
ATMS 13020. Phone 0421 410057

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