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  • Writer's pictureUltra Sports

Sports massage in Rugby

Updated: Mar 6, 2019

Sports massage and soft tissue therapy are widely used in rugby mainly during the training phase of match preparation. During rehabilitation from injury sports massage is important to increase range of movement, decrease pain and anxiety and reduce stiffness. Sports massage has the potential to reduce the inflammatory process associated with injury, facilitate early recovery, and provide pain relief from muscular injuries. By altering the signalling pathways involved with the inflammatory process massage is reported to decrease secondary injury, reduce nerve sensitisation resulting in the reduction or prevention of pain and increased recovery from tissue damage (Philip et al., 2008).

Studies have shown that sports massage/soft tissue therapy initiated immediately after exercise and 48 hours post exercise were both effective in reducing muscle oedema and decreasing the number of damaged muscle fibres compared to exercised, non- massaged controls. Sports massage and soft tissue therapy can alleviate secondary injury associated with intense exercise, thereby reducing tissue damage and accelerating recovery (Astin., 1998). However, treatment 48hrs post-match maybe difficult with rugby players due to rugby being a contact sport.

Whether you’re a professional athlete, a weekend sportsperson or exercise for fun and health reasons sports massage and soft tissue therapy can be used as preparation for exercise or competition, between competition and to assist in recovery from exercise.

According to their research Thomas and Crawford (2017) have shown that the most commonly cited reason for seeking soft tissue therapy is the treatment or prevention of musculoskeletal conditions or conditions associated with chronic pain. Most athletes and non-athletes use complimentary modalities in conjunction with traditional treatment to increase recovery time, reduce anxiety and the relief of symptoms - which is one of the most common reasons cited in research (Waters-Banker et al., 2014).

It is well accepted that over-load is necessary for improvement, however, overtraining results in a breakdown at some level, thus impairment or regression of performance rather than improvement become the norm.

Athletes and exercise practitioners have assumed that increased training was the ultimate prescription for improvement. Endurance sports like swimming and rugby have, in some cases, carried this to an extreme. Overtraining is usually thought of strictly in terms of training yet overtraining might also be expressed as under-recovering. If the recovery rate can be improved greater training volumes would be possible without incurring the negative consequences of overtraining (Astin., 1998).


1) Astin JA. Why patients use alternative medicine: results of a national study. (1998) JAMA, 279(19), pp. 1548–1553.

2) Barnes PM, Powell-Griner E, McFann K, Nahin RL. (2004) Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults: United States, 2002. Advance Data. 27 (343), pp. 1–19.

3) Christine Waters-Banker, PhD, ATC*; Esther E. Dupont-Versteegden, PhD*; Patrick H. Kitzman, PhD*; Timothy A. Butterfield, PhD, ATC, FACSM* (2014) Investigating the Mechanisms of Massage Efficacy: The Role of Mechanical Immunomodulation, Journal of Athletic Training ,49(2), pp. 266–273

4) Phillip A. Bishop, Eric Jones, Krista Woods. (2008) Recovery from training: A brief review, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22 (3), pp. 1015-1024.

5) Thomas M Best, Scott K Crawford. (2017) Massage and post exercise recovery: the science is emerging, British Journal Sports Medicine, 51 (19), pp.

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