Athletes or sportspeople are highly trained, finely tuned individuals who are usually totally focused on achieving success in their particular field. They will train and stress the body to its limit, i.e. to the point of breakdown. They may train too hard and too frequently in an effort to improve performance. Hard training with inadequate rest periods to allow full recovery will result in a decline in performance and leave the body vulnerable to serious injury.

As a result of over-training and incomplete recovery, the athlete may suffer from any of the following symptoms: vague aches and pains; acute pain in muscles, bones or joints; inflammation of tendons, ligaments or bursae resulting in pain and swellings; and symptoms of stress such as headaches, listlessness, tension, insomnia or increased irritability.

Athletes and their trainers should be made aware that hard training must be balanced with rest periods to allow adequate or full recovery of the tissues and to restore homeostasis (body balance). The harder and longer the training, the longer the rest period should be. If homeostasis is not restored and tissue recovery is incomplete, then the level of performance will eventually decline. Massage following training and performance will greatly hasten the recovery of the tissues. Figure 11.1 A highly trained athlete.

Research indicates that recovery is four to five times faster in tissues receiving massage than in those simply allowed to rest. A shorter recovery time allows for a greater number of training sessions, which will improve performance.

Injuries of the musculo-skeletal system occur as a result of poor technique and over-training. When tired and over-stressed, these structures are more vulnerable to injury. Minor injuries may result in greater injury or serious damage if ignored or neglected. The massage therapist will detect areas of tension and abnormalities within the tissues. Appropriate treatment and rest in these initial stages will prevent further damage.

When injuries occur, they must be referred to a medical practitioner for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. The rate of recovery and return to full function will depend on these factors. Inappropriate treatment or inadequate recovery time may result in further damage and permanently impaired function.

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