Posted 29/02/2020 in Category 1

The Psychological Benefit of Sports Massage In Elite Football

The Psychological Benefit of Sports Massage In Elite Football


Sports massage is proposed to have a number of benefits. For example, increased joint range of motion (ROM), increased flexibility, decreased muscle tension, decreased muscle spasms and better sleep. 

One of these benefits is also psychological. This is illustrated in a recent pilot study conducted in with the Nigerian national football team up to and including the the 2014 World Cup, but only recently published (Shuiabu & Bello, 2019).  The authors reported data from 17 players who were member of the Nigeria senior national football team and data were collected from pre-World Cup and 2014 FIFA World Cup matches. The players completed completed measures of anxiety, self-confidence before and after a 45-50 minute massage. Measures of blood pressure and heart rate were also taken before and after the massage. The study says that the massages were given both more and less than 24 hours before a game - although it is a little difficult to work out exactly what this means.  

The massage itself was given at the rate of 25–30 strokes per minute at a moderate depth (grade 2). Below is the detail of the massage taken from the paper. 

  • Quadriceps: stroking (30 seconds), effleurage (1 minute), kneading (2 minutes), effleurage (1 minute), and stroking (30 seconds).

  • Shin: stroking (30 seconds), effleurage (1 minute), kneading (1 minute), and stroking (30 seconds).

  • Calf: stroking (30 seconds), effleurage (1 minute), kneading (1 minute), effleurage (1 minute), and strok- ing (30 seconds).

  • Hamstring: stroking (30 seconds), effleurage (1 minute), kneading (2 minutes), effleurage (1 minute), and stroking (30 seconds).

  • Back: stroking (30 seconds), effleurage (1 minute), kneading (2 minutes), frictional (1 or 2 minutes), wring- ing (1 minute), effleurage (1 minute), and stroking (30 seconds).


The players rested for five minutes before and after the massage.

Heart rate did not significantly change after the massage but there was a reduction in blood pressure. There were also changes in self-report measures of anxiety and confidence that relate to the players' psychological states in relation to the game. Interestingly, there was a significant reduction in cognitive anxiety, somatic anxiety, and increase in self-confidence after the massage, in the period less than 24 hours before the matches played at the World cup. This illustrates how a sports massage pre-game may have a positive effect on a player's psychological state. The Multidimensional Theory of Competitive State Anxiety (MAT; Martens et al., 1990) proposes that cognitive anxiety (psychological) has a negative linear relationship with performance while somatic anxiety (physiological) has an inverted-U relationship with performance. Self-confidence, considered to be orthogonal to cognitive anxiety, is proposed to have a positive linear relationship with performance and also forms part of MAT. 

While the results are interesting there are some limitations in the study. The results should be considered as preliminary given that the sample was small. There was also no control group. Further we do not know how long these effects lasted. It may be possible that any positive effects from a sports massage may dissipate once the players get to the ground.

That said the paper is interesting for a number of reasons. In particular the sample. It is rare to be able to collect data at an elite level and report that data. It is also interesting because it shows the interaction between physical and psychological preparation. By being better prepared physically we feel more confident and less anxious. This interaction s certainly something to consider in player preparation. 

If you are interested in sports massage clinic or practitioner then we have a great selection on our site. We also have a great range of sport psychology practitioners. You can of course search our directory for any service you want. And if you would like to list on the site then we would be delighted to host you and you can join here

References

Martens R, Burton D, Vealey RS, Bump LA, Smith DE. Development and validation of the competitive state anxiety inventory-2. Competitive anxiety in sport. 1990:117-90.

Shuiabu AK, Bello B. Effects of pre-event massage on anxiety among Nigeria national team football players: a pilot study. Hum Mov. 2019;20(4):46–51; doi: https://doi.org/10.5114/hm.2019.85090.