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Using Massage to Improve Your Child’s Athletic Performance , recover after a game or tournament or to just give them some much needed care .
Whether your child has dreams of becoming the next Michael Phelps or Shawn Johnson, whether they are hoping for a full-ride athletic scholarship or they just hurt themselves through day to day fun, helping your child maintain a healthy pain free body is as important to them as to us adults.
If your child has serious athletic ambitions they are going to have to work hard to stand out. That means three or more hours per day of athletic training, with little time between workouts to recover. Yes they are young and resilient but they get aches and pains too.
Taking care of your child so that they continue to improve—and avoid injury that could cut their athletic career short—is your priority. It’s your job to give them the tools they need to succeed. Sports massage is one of those tools. That’s why Michael Phelps has two massages every day. He and other athletes (and coaches) recognize that a complete workout routine includes not only the exercise itself, but also caring for the wear-and-tear and minor injuries that naturally occur with strenuous movement.
Sports massage can ensure your child’s muscles are strong and able to cope with the stress exercise places on them. Tight muscles are more likely to get injured and don’t perform as well. Studies show that sports massage can enhance performance, reduce the risk of injury, and speed up recovery times for some injuries.
How is sports massage different from other types of therapeutic massage? The answer is that the techniques really aren’t that different—the basic techniques used for sports massage are the same as for other forms of therapeutic massage, but the therapist may apply the techniques a little differently to help the muscles stretch easier. In sports massage, the therapist may also make more use of frictioning techniques, which involves massaging the tendons across the fibers repeatedly to break down adhesions and soften scar tissue. The massage therapist will choose the right therapeutic techniques depending on the specific needs of the individual. The general goal, though, is to ease muscle tension, improve circulation, and increase mobility.
How often and when the young athlete should get sports massage depends on the individual and the intensity of their athletic training. Most professional athletes get sports massage between training days and then before, during, or after an athletic event. For the young athlete, it’s impractical to get that much massage. We generally recommend having massage between strenuous training days. This helps the muscles recover quickly so that they are less likely to get injured during the next practice or game.
As with any therapeutic massage, it is important to see a certified massage therapist. Sports massage is popular certification, and many massage therapists specialize in working with athletes. Most therapists will require a parent or guardian be present during the child’s massage. Sports massage on children under the age of 12 is not recommended because, before puberty, children still have soft bones and the distance between the bones (joint space) is large and can be injured by assisted stretching.
Whatever your child’s dreams are, you can help them go for the gold with a regular routine of massage therapy
This article appears in the January issue of Your Health Magazine.