The role of massage in sports performance and rehabilitation: current evidence and future direction

N Am J Sports Phys Ther. 2008 Feb;3(1):7-21.


Background: Massage is a popular treatment choice of athletes, coaches, and sports physical therapists. Despite its purported benefits and frequent use, evidence demonstrating its efficacy is scarce.

Purpose: To identify current literature relating to sports massage and its role in effecting an athlete's psychological readiness, in enhancing sports performance, in recovery from exercise and competition, and in the treatment of sports related musculoskeletal injuries.

Methods: Electronic databases were used to identify papers relevant to this review. The following keywords were searched: massage, sports injuries, athletic injuries, physical therapy, rehabilitation, delayed onset muscle soreness, sports psychology, sports performance, sports massage, sports recovery, soft tissue mobilization, deep transverse friction massage, pre-event, and post exercise.

Results: RESEARCH STUDIES PERTAINING TO THE FOLLOWING GENERAL CATEGORIES WERE IDENTIFIED AND REVIEWED: pre-event (physiological and psychological variables), sports performance, recovery, and rehabilitation.

Discussion: Despite the fact clinical research has been performed, a poor appreciation exists for the appropriate clinical use of sports massage.

Conclusion: Additional studies examining the physiological and psychological effects of sports massage are necessary in order to assist the sports physical therapist in developing and implementing clinically significant evidence based programs or treatments.