Massage is not the first word that springs to mind when you think of Australian Rules Football. But it has been a key tool for AFL players and professional sportsmen for a number of years. Increasingly amateur athletes are realising the benefits of massage, not just for physical performance and recovery, but also for clarity of mind.
In fact the benefits of massage are probably greater for amateur athletes. As they are not only training 2-3 times weekly on top of a game, they also are working. Whether it’s a desk job, where they are stuck in a seated position for a large part of the day, or a trade, where they are on their feet all day. Recovery is not optimal and fatigue and poor performance in work and sport can quickly set in.
Regular massage assists with the recovery process and reduces muscle tension, increases circulation, reduces stress hormones as well as increasing joint flexibility and mobility. These benefits of massage are common knowledge and to counter the physical stress of playing a high level sport like AFL, massage should be a regular part of an athlete’s regime.
The mental benefits of massage are generally lesser appreciated than the physical components, but are just as valuable to a serious athlete. Football or any other high level sport places a high degree of stress on the athlete and without taking the necessary precautions, burnout and depression can follow. Regular massage decreases stress hormones, increases mental awareness and decreases anxiety and depression.
Massage helps an AFL athlete manage their physical and mental recovery as well as enhancing their performance. However, this should be in addition to regular training, both cardio and strength, in addition to conditioning fitness with the ball in hand. This not only helps keep the athlete in shape, but also allows them to test their physical limits and better understand their body in a safe training environment.
The quicker an athlete recovers, the faster they can get back to training and improving their capabilities. A few easy ways to recover in the 24 hours after a game are hot/cold showers, swimming, stretching, quality nutrition intake and massage by a trained professional. Incorporating massage into the routine of an AFL athlete or high level sportsmen will improve their physical and mental performance as well as increasing their longevity in the game.
Riley (Footballer, Pocket Rocket and Remedial Therapist)