Background: The equivocal findings in the literature on efficacy of massage makes it difficult to assess the requirement for, or justify the use of, specialist massage personnel at major athletics events. However, the use of massage by athletes during training and competition remains popular.
Objectives: To quantify the amount of their time that physiotherapists devote to massage treatment at major athletics events in an attempt to determine the importance of this treatment modality, and to examine whether the use of massage at athletics events is changing over time.
Methods: Data recorded by the head team physiotherapist from 12 major athletics events (national and international events) between 1987 and 1998 were examined. For each event, the data included: total number of treatments administered by the physiotherapist, the treatment modalities used, and the number of attendances for treatment. The amount of massage provided was expressed as a percentage of the total number of treatments for each athletic event, and the pattern of change in use of massage treatment over time was evaluated.
Results: The percentage of time spent providing massage treatment ranged from 24.0% to 52.2% of the total number of treatments made. The overall median percentage of total treatments in the form of massage was 45.2%. No significant increase or decrease in the use of massage as a treatment modality was observed between 1987 and 1998 in the athletics events examined (p = 0.95).
Conclusions: A significant proportion of physiotherapists’ time is devoted to the delivery of massage treatment at athletics events. The demand for massage treatment has been steady over the time period, in the events for which data are available, indicating a consistent use of this treatment modality. Given the popularity of massage among athletes, consideration should be given to the use of specialist sports massage staff at major athletics events. Furthermore, it would seem prudent to further investigate the efficacy of the treatment.
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