Transformer - Decepticon

Transformer - Decepticon

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Working With Injured Athletes


  • What is the psychology of an injured athlete ~~ what are they going through?
  • how do we interact with them at an event ?
  • what is our approach with them at the office ?
  • what to say & how to explain the issues they are experiencing ?
  • what is their post event protocol for recovery ?
  • what does their training, nutrition & hydration consist of ?

I've wanted to talk about this subject for a long time. I think it really hit me hard & has stayed with me since I encountered an athlete (runner @ a marathon) who was taken to the medical tent for severe muscle spasms.

This particular athlete had never experienced this kind of issue before and didn't really know how to process what was happening. Lets face it, if you train healthy, eat healthy and have a good plan for recovery ~~ being sent to the medical tent for fluid IV hydration is scary.

So why does this happen?

A question I wish I could answer, but I can't: HOWEVER, there are so many possible reasons it occurs.

  • HYDRATION ~~ or lack of -- what are you drinking
  • NUTRITION ~~ are you getting what you need
  • RECOVERY PLAN ~~ how are you treating your body after a hard workout - competition - event?

I was called to the medical tent to help stop systemic cramping of an athletes quadriceps. I utilized the proper techniques ( direct pressure & approximation) these 2 seemed to work best for this athlete.

Funny thing is as I scanned the medical tent I noticed 2 other sports massage therapists from my team! WHAT IS GOING ON HERE??

So lets back up alittle: the athletes in question, or the ones we encountered all had set training schedules & routines. Everyone had a different approach ~~ one that worked for them.

All of them were excited about the event & ready to go! None of them participated with a pre-existing injuries. ( information we gathered from them) So why would this occur to a seemingly healthy athlete?

A possible explanation could be their nutrition or lack of. What are they missing, are they trying out a new product or trying a new fad diet?

Another issue is hydration! Are these athletes taking in enough fluids on a regular basis. Are their muscles, tendons & ligaments properly hydrated? Supple enough for the continuous physical demand placed on them for the activity in question.

What about stretching ~~ is it incorporated into the training schedule? What kind of stretching & is it being facilitated correctly?

Another important issue is the weather & climate ~~ has the athlete trained in the same environment they are competing in?

Other issues associated with the weather: questions to ask ~~

  • is it hot
  • is it cold
  • is it raining

How will the athletes body respond to this environment?

Another factor is the recovery plan. Does the athlete have one? Not everyone practices post work out self care.


Self care can encompass quite a few things. I'll give you a few from my stand point as a specialized sports massage therapist.

  • cool down phase
  • post activity stretching ( static or PNF)
  • foam rolling

POST ACTIVITY SPORTS MASSAGE ~~ this can be applied in a number of ways

  • flushing of the calf's, hamstrings, quads - usually 20 minutes in duration
  • ice massage on affected areas, usually 20-30 minute in duration
  • moist heat
  • ice baths ( no one really likes them but extremely beneficial)
  • biofreeze on sore muscles
  • myofascial release

Incorporating one or a few of these items can significantly decrease the possibility of injury for an active athlete or performer.

Sports massage is an essential part of training & recovery.

While I speak with athletes at sporting events I inquire about their recovery plan ~~ what do they do after the event?

I also ask if they have a sports massage therapist. If they don't I encourage them to find one. I also give them tips on what to look for in a good SMT. ( most athletes that I encounter are from another state) The athletes from in-state ~~ I hand them a business card!!

It's also important for athletes to know that post event sports massage at the event has 1 purpose: elongate musculature & rid the body of cellular debris produced by the physical activity and to help decrease post event muscle soreness.

If you are looking for deeper work, schedule that with your SMT 1-2 days after the athletic event.

So, to recap: it's important for a Sports Massage Therapist to understand what is going on with an injured athlete, whether they are at the event or in the office recovering from injury.


Talk to them, reassure them it's okay to be scared, angry, frustrated etc.. but they also have a responsibility to be respectful.... lets face it ~~ sometimes emotions come out "sideways" and some actions may not be appropriate.

You are there to help with their recovery, don't promise them anything ~~ but they need realistic goals. Some situations are easy and others are more complex.

My experience has always been a good one because I continue to be honest & upfront with all of my clients & athletes.

If you are looking for a GREAT sports massage therapist to explain the physiology of the body - that understands injury & the bio-mechanics of movement~~ give me a call, I'd love to hear from you!!

Always! ~~ the glitter is still with me and I will be bringing it to the 2010 Paralympics!!!


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