Value of Sports Massage?

Most of the top professional tennis players get a massage after every one of their tough matches.  And many of my tennis buddies get regular body rubs themselves and swear by them.  So, I asked a professional some key questions…

Larry Starr Knows …

I have known Larry for 17 years as the main “physical repair guy” (i.e. trainer) at Newk’s Tennis Fantasy Camp; and before that he was the Head Athletic Trainer for the Cincinnati Reds and Florida Marlins baseball teams.  Here is what his answers were to my questions …

Larry Starr
  • What is the prime purpose of massage in sports?  It helps to increase range of motion, increased flexibility, reduce muscle tension, relax nerves, decrease muscle spasms, better sleep, and a sense of well being. There is some recent research that shows that it also may improve cardiovascular response by increasing mitochondria, which helps in cells energy and metabolism.

  • Are there different types of massage methods?  There are different types of massage that are determined on the ultimate goal – relaxation or stimulation. They are usually classified into three types: Effleurage -light strokes to increase blood flow;
    Petrissage – deeper kneading action; and
    Tapotement – cupping or hacking of the tissues for deeper stimulation.

  • If a tennis player doesn’t have access to someone, can they do something themselves? Absolutely – using foam rollers, The Stick, and other devices can be beneficial and create similar blood and nerve stimulation. Another thing that can be used as a personal massage and is very popular are Percussion Massage Devices. They are basically a medically approved upgraded zigsaw with different appliance heads. But they do work and are seen in most athletic training rooms today.

    All these tools can be used both pre and post tennis playing for stimulation and relaxation. This done with proper post activity stretching and cool down are important in reducing muscle soreness and reducing injury.

  • Considering cost/time/availability, how often should the average club player get a massage?  Although I know their benefits and do enjoy them, I maybe get them 1-2 times a year. As for a recommendation for the club player, I would say a couple times a month. The exception would be a significant increase in playing time or unusual soreness might dictate more often. Cost could be a factor for some people also.

My Experience

I have a whirlpool attached to my Florida backyard pool with two pumps going into it: one is the main pool pump and enters the tub through just one powerful jet (which is so strong that many people won’t sit in front of it).  After tennis every day, I use that jet for a very effective “water massage,”  which I credit (along with daily stretching) as my prime injury avoidance tools.

Get this: I have not had a massage since I was in the Army 50+ years ago; and June 3 was my birthday and my brother gave me a gift certificate for a massage!  So, I will soon have a “first hand” opinion!

How about YOU, are you a massage person?

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12 thoughts on “Value of Sports Massage?

  1. I try to get a deep tissue massage once per month. I am not sure that it helps my tennis game but when walking to the car I feel like a million bucks. One big factor is the person giving the massage. A small amount of pain can hurt so good. If your certificate is for Massage Lux let me know and I will give you a recommendation. Life is good!

    Phil, my certificate is for the place at the end of my brother’s street (and the picture of the masseuse is very intriguing!). thanks, george

  2. I see it as another tool in the “box’ for us aging players. And one that has shown, for me, to be successful.
    The spa or whirlpool…………….that is another wonderful tool in the “box”.

    Howie, we need all the tools we can find to keep going! thanks, george

  3. Many people use Joann at the sanctioned tournaments. She does a great job as many of her regulars will verify. She has helped me numerous times after straining a hamstring running for drop shots. Normally I don’t like massages except for injuries. I probably should use them as your therapist is recommending.

    Dave, Joann has helped many players play on (as has Larry Starr)! thanks, george

  4. Massage – good topic – I also like Chiropractic. it is a great answer when it is the answer but not all ailments respond positively. Usually you can count on massage to do no harm, be enjoyable, cost a little more than comfortable, and may be therapeutic. Winder Bill

    Winder, i had a knee problem that wouldn’t go away and a chiropractor friend moved a bone in my FOOT that corrected my knee problem! thanks, george

  5. I’ve been getting neuromuscular massages once a week for years and it’s been very helpful. It’s very deep tissue and not pleasant but it’s invaluable for me as I’ve never been very flexible.

    Andy, if that is the secret to your speed on the court, sign me up! george

  6. Has any one has experience with massage chair? I am very lazy when it comes to exercise, so it would be wonderful if I sit in my massage chair before and after a tennis match to take care of my body.

    Omar, i had one and found it insufficient in power and penetration. george

  7. George – A few years ago I had a low back issue which involved sciatica. Eventually I went for a “medical massage”. I was surprised when the massage began on my upper back and when I heard the tight muscles “releasing” it sounded like the Rice Krispies ad (snap, crackle and pop). At the finish I felt much better and more relaxed (even though the relief was limited to a few days). I’d expect the same good results for a sports massage following a long day of tennis matches / over exertion.

    Dag, imagine if you were a pro who could have it done every day! george

  8. I find that deep massage can be very effective for muscle strains in the back. My wife uses her elbow to great effectiveness on the sore area. We were shown how to do it by an excellent physical therapist and it has worked wonders.
    Deep massage should not be done, however, if there are muscle tears as it could further the injury.

    Michael, good advice as always. thanks, george

  9. George, this subject is close to home for me. I had complicated lumbar surgery three years ago and the surgeon was not confident tennis would be in my future. The extensive PT and rehab was critical to get me back on the court but stretching and aggressive massage has kept me on the court as my body still rebells against the fusions and metal apparatus . I need almost weekly sessions of 90 minutes depending on tennis activity . Sessions are very aggressive and are combined with aggressive stretching over and above daily stretching. The things we’ll do to continue to play this game !

    Joe, and imagine what we would feel like if we did NOT! Thanks, george

  10. George I have been getting a massage once a week for years. I remember Bob Hope saying massage kept him alive well beyond his expectations. I have horrible stenosis and sciatic nerve discomfort so the massages and some chiropractic are very helpful!

    Jim, sounds like a great benefit to have done so regularly! thanks, george

  11. George,
    Glad I could be of help in this interesting and informative topic. By the multiple responses, it shows that it is something many of using as another effective method to stay healthy. Larry

    Larry, we all always appreciate your sharing your years of professional experience to keep us healthy and playing! thanks, george

  12. In the “How come nobody ever told me this?” category, in January, 2019, at the big tournament at Mission Hills, I thought I would try really stretching a lot after each match, you know, lots of stretches, one minute each, stretching to the limit. I was amazed at how that reduced the next day’s usual fatigue. I came home to the Berkeley Tennis Club and told the head personal trainer about my discovery. She said, “Oh, yeah; everyone knows that.”

    Even more recently I tried hand rolling while stretching. I’ve been stretching my hamstrings for years, foot up on chair, back straight (maybe), trying to touch toes, barely reaching my right toes (a littel better on left). Tried rolling my hamstring (not pleasant) while stretching–after 30 seconds of stretching, wrapped my fingers over my toes, for the first time ever! How come nobody told me about that, either.

    Makes me wonder what else I’m clueless about.

    BJ, Larry Starr, the professional trainer who wrote the piece, advocates dynamic stretching before a match and longer stretching after. thanks, george

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