Olympic Bobsledder’s Massage
By John G. Louis , CMT
July 28, 2010
For those of you who watched the Olympic Bobsled events during the Winter Games, you saw the fastest track in the world. It made for incredibly exciting competition. I had lots of interest in the events because one of my clients was there and competed, a 28-year-old former Cornell University football player named Jamie Moriarty. Jamie just happens to live in Winnetka, Illinois, very close to my clinic in the same town.
Bobsledders are chosen based on their speed and strength, necessary to push the sleigh at the beginning of the race. Over the rest of the course, the sleigh’s speed depends on its weight. That’s why really strong and fast football players make great bobsledders. Jamie is a tremendous athlete. His hard work and discipline earned him a spot on the U.S. Olympic Team just a few weeks prior to the Games. No stranger to success, he has competed since 2006. He finished second in a World Cup four-man event at Lake Placid, New York in November 2009.
Because of the fact that competing at this level is so incredibly taxing, massage therapy is a welcomed part of their program. “Thankfully, our team had a massage therapist traveling with us. I always looked forward to my treatments and benefited from them immensely. I wish that we had massage therapy available to us when I was playing football at Cornell,” said Moriarty, whose father and two of his uncles all played football in the NFL.
In working with Jamie, I spend a good amount of time on his arms and legs. Because there is so much emphasis on speed and strength, the athlete works their arms and legs incredibly hard in competition as well as in training. I use lots of direct pressure, deep stripping and cross-fiber friction. I like to take at least 90 minutes to work with Jamie; it’s hard to make a therapeutic change without a significant treatment time period. It’s always great for me to see an athlete come in all locked up and leave feeling completely freed up and restored.
I’m thankful for the Olympics because it is one of the ways competitive athletes were exposed to therapeutic massage. I found my way in through professional soccer, the other main entry point. Amazingly, the United States is still very far behind the rest of the world in the use of massage in treating athletes. I believe it is in part due to the fact that athletic trainers and physical therapists have relied a great deal on high-tech treatment machines like ultrasound and electric muscle stimulators. I believe that these machines have some therapeutic value. However, they don’t replace the powerful hands-on treatment of skilled therapeutic massage. Ironically, third world countries couldn’t afford these machines, so they relied on the team of massage therapists to provide their soft-tissue treatment. Consequently, I believe they have been better off because of it.
Massage therapy for competitive athletes continues to grow in this country. There were only a handful of us 30 years ago. There should be more and more opportunities for massage therapists to work in sports. If you are interested, try and get advanced training in good solid muscle therapy treatment training. Learn to treat tissue skillfully and therapeutically, and you will be very valuable!
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