For my first blog I thought it might be fun to explore the History of Massage in Athletics. Not many people realize how long Massage has been a part of the Sports community. Sports massage can be traced back to 300B.C. Ancient Greece. Olympic athletes and Citizens who attended the gymnasia received massage as part of their training routine. The trainers, called "paidotribes", rubbed the players with oil first in preparation. This was called "tripsis paraskeuastike"(try to say that 3 times fast!). Then after activity the athlete was scraped of dust, oil, and sweat, and then rubbed with oil again. This process was called "apotherapeia". One famous Roman doctor named Galen often wrote on massage before and after exercise as a way to “excite the [the body] to activity and augment its tone,” as well as, “[massage] relaxes tension and softens the parts that have suffered in more violent kinds of exertions.”
In the mid eighteen hundreds P.H. Ling’s system of gymnastics was brought to the United States. Within this system massage was a part of the medical gymnastics approach, thus the term "swedish massage". A man named Hartwig Nissen opened the “Swedish Health Institute for the Treatment of Chronic Diseases by Swedish Movements and Massage” (otherwise known as SHITCDSMM) in 1893 based on Ling’s systems. This was quite possibly the nation’s first massage instruction school. Physical education schools were the primary educator of physical therapy and massage through the 1950's.
In 1947, some guy named Albert Baumgartner (best last name ever) wrote “Massage in Athletics”, One of the first books entirely written about massage for athletes. In his book he defined the three purposes of massage as preparatory, intermediate, and reconditioning. Today these are known as pre-, inter-, and post-event massage. He also stressed the psychological benefits of athletic massage and acknowledged the need for well qualified therapists.
Between 1950 and 1970, sports massage fell to the back burner. In 1972 during the summer Olympics, Lasse Viren set a world-record in the 10K and an Olympic record in the 5K. Runners soon learned that Lasse had been receiving daily massage. This resulted in a rekindled interest in utilizing sports massage. Today sports massage is common place. James Harrison, of NFL fame, spends about 600K per year on the services of chiropractors and massage therapists! Many universities, professional sports teams, and event organizers employ the skills of sports massage specialists to keep athletes healthy and less disgruntled.
Nicholas Garman, LMT NSCA-CPT