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Providing Event Massage Therapy

Posted on March 23, 2016 at 3:30 PM

For a few years, I was an active member of the American Massage Therapy Association’s sports massage team. I loved it! We traveled all over Minnesota and provided post event massages to athletes of all levels (and health conditions). We met so many wonderful people who traveled the country to stay active and support their cause. I learned so much from that team. At the time, I was young and had all the pieces I needed to be a good event therapist, but really didn’t know how to put all those pieces together to create what the athlete needed. So I thought I’d pass on some of the helpful tips they gave me and provide a" target="_blank"> printable checklist of things you need to bring with you. This way it will be easy to find and you can print one out for every event.


Event massage is very different from clinical massage that you practice in your office. Most often these massages are provided outdoors, post event. The athletes are dressed, sweaty and usually dirty depending on both the event and the weather conditions. I always bring my massage cream, but never use it. Long, slow strokes are not used at this time. If the athletes would like to make an appointment with you at your place of business at a later time for something more relaxing that is fine. However, at this time it does not work to accomplish what we need. Short, rhythmic strokes, petrissage, tapotement, wringing and stretching will be focused on.


Time is an issue. Last year at Grandma’s Marathon there were 6077 finishers. That is why they need a lot of volunteers! Your line gets long. Make sure you give each athlete the attention they need, but they are not going to get an hour and half clinic setting session. Approximately 10-15 minutes per person. Also, this means you have to pay attention to yourself. It is very easy to get caught up in what you are doing, seeing all those athletes and keep on a goin’. Many of these events are during the summer when it is hot and sunny. You need to take a break. Eat. Rest. Drink plenty of water (and of course take a potty break). I know it sounds silly, but we are not the ones they want to see in the medical tent!


We may not be the medical tent, but often we may be seeing the athletes first, who should be in the medical tent instead. Many of the events that need massage therapists are those trying to raise money for a medical group. MS Bikathon in Sundance is a good example. But there are also many “race for the cure” type events as well. These are passionate people. They literally travel around the country raising money and awareness for their cause. Always ask about prior/current injury. But also ask about their health status. Do they have cancer? Do they have MS? What are their symptoms today? Is that new? These are strong people that do amazing things and can often push their bodies to do amazing things. When you consider they have a medical condition, are performing in wind, heat, cold or rain--they DO NOT tell their family and friends that they lost feeling in an extremity or most of their vision hours ago. They just keep going. The other thing I came across working at Grandma’s Marathon that is a little more difficult to detect is, are they coherent? There was a man who had just finished the race and wanted a nice massage after. He didn’t appear dizzy or out of place. He was very friendly and full of conversation. However, he was talking about his children. Once his wife heard him, she immediately spoke up and they rushed him to the medical tent, as they had no children.


Always check with the event you are volunteering at about their expectations. Many of these events are fundraisers for a cause. Most of the time the massage services are free to all competitors. A tip jar can be put out for donations. Some events are just happy you showed up, so if you don’t donate it back that is your choice. Some events want a percentage of what is donated and sometimes it is expected that you donate all of it since it was a fundraiser. I think it is most common to donate at least 50% back to the event, but each event is different.


I have attached a printable list of things to bring with you to your sport event. These are things probably not normally found in your clinic unless you regularly provide massage at a sport event. You will need a plastic fitted sheet. In the past I was always able to get them at Walmart or Kmart without issue, but I have not found them in stores recently.  You may need to buy a plastic sheet online.  You need to have a plastic sheet on your table to protect it from grease, grime, sweat, chalk and actual dirt. You will need something on your table that is easy to clean and sanitize between each athlete. Remember the athletes are dressed so you don’t have to worry about draping. Also, with hundreds of athletes, even at the smaller events you are not going to have enough sheets or time to change them.


Next you need 4 wood blocks. About 4x4 square to put under each table leg. This will prevent your table from sinking into the ground and leaving you wondering how your table got so short without an adjustment. You don’t want that dirt getting into your table.


Bring lots of cleaner! You need hand sanitizer for your hands between each athlete. You will also need cleaner for your table. I have used clorox wipes but you can also order hospital grade Cavicide wipes if you prefer. Paper towels are useful if you are using a spray cleaner or need disposable face cradle covers.


Bring a tip jar. A sturdy one that can handle Wyoming type weather. Sometimes people forget that part and end up using a paper or plastic bag---they blow away in the wind and are generally not a good choice.


Please volunteer to work a sporting event in your area. The athletes not only need it, but really appreciate it. The people you will meet will be remarkable. It is so worth your time.  If you have any trouble accessing the printable link I provided, please message me and I can email it to you.


Categories: health, injury prevention, Massage Therapy

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