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  • Writer's pictureClaire Harrison

The benefits of sports massage for tennis players

Massage therapists who work with athletes integrate a number of different techniques to obtain different effects in the soft tissues. These techniques vary in how they are applied i.e. the depth and speed, depending upon whether treatment is post or pre-event.

Techniques include Effleurage or stroking where strokes follow the body's contour and can vary in depth of pressure. This helps with circulation and tissue drainage, stretches muscles and fascia, and soothes painful areas.

Other forms of massage include Petrissagae where muscle is lifted away from underlying structures, gently kneaded or compressed, then released to assist with removal of metabolic waste and improve circulation. Tapotement - light striking movements to the skin to energise muscle tissue. Friction massage, a deep, brisk stroke that helps to break down scar tissue and increase local circulation and Vibration - normally used pre-event to stimulate target muscle groups.

A tennis player’s body is under a lot of stress on the court

Players must run across a hard surface while performing repetitive swings with their arms. This constant movement places the body under a lot of stress, and there’s a risk of inflammation and injury when coupled with short rest times in between sets. Parts of the body most prone to injury are:

  • The shoulders/rotator cuffs

  • The ankles, feet and calf muscles

  • The elbows and wrists

  • The back

  • The bicep muscles

Tennis players also place a lot of emphasis on recovery between matches. In order to perform at the highest level all year round. Massage can help tennis players by supporting their recovery and treating any injuries or ailments suffered while playing or training. Some of the benefits of massage therapy for tennis players include:

  • Decreased inflammation of joints

  • Improved muscle recovery

  • Prevention of muscle tightness

  • Injury prevention

  • Improved relaxation

Intense physical activity results in the production of lactose which can be responsible for muscle fatigue and a decrease in athletic performance. One argument for the use of massage to clear lactate from tissue is that massage increases the movement of lymphatic fluid or blood which can support its transfer to a gluconeogenic organ such as the liver.

Myofascial release improves rotation of the shoulder joint

A study aimed at investigating the effects of self-myofascial release (massage that releases tightness and pain throughout your myofascial tissues) on shoulder function and perception in adolescent tennis players found this type of massage implemented three times a week during the course of 5 weeks allowed an increase of 11° (2°) of internal rotation range of motion at the dominant glenohumeral joint (P < .001) and a decreased perception of shoulder instability (P = .03), while maintaining tennis serve velocity and accuracy. The conclusions were that implementing myofascial release on infraspinatus and pectoralis muscles improved dominant glenohumeral internal rotation range of motion in tennis players which can be used as a strategy to preserve the mobility of this joint.

If you have recently experienced a soft tissue or muscle injury, a sports massage therapist will give advice on what type of programme to follow. If it is more intense training or a competition that you are working towards, frequent massages will hugely benefit you and guard against future injury, at the same time as reducing recovery time after training and competitions.


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