Sports Massage- Contraindications

a leaflet by Joshua Moody

A Basic Introduction- What are contraindications?

Contraindications are anything which prevents, or may prevent a therapist from performing a massage. Classified as either yellow or red flags depending on the severity of the contraindication and how it therefore affects the massage applied, they include any injury from a cut/ minor bruise to much more severe injuries such as broken bones.

Cancer- Red Flag

Cancer would almost always be considered a red flag, certainly for any type of sports massage as the cancer can be broken down by the action of the massage.
If the cancer was broken down the action of the massage can transport the cells via the lymphatic system, spreading the cancer to other parts of the body.
Certain techniques are more likely to break down the cancer; such as petrisage and friction (cross or single handed) because they go deeper into the tissues. Lighter techniques such as light effeulage may be attempted with the prior permission of the client's doctor.
A doctor should always be consulted before treating a client who may have or has had cancer.

Pregnancy- Yellow Flag

Pregnancy does not always mean massage cannot take place. During the latter stages of the pregnancy light massage can increase a woman's feeling of well being and make an expectant mother more comfortable.

During the early stages of pregnancy massage should not be performed at all as the growing foetus is not in a stable enough state at this point.

Fracture- Yellow Flag

Bone fractures can be painful especially if pressure is placed near the area of the fracture. Light massage on the same limb as the fracture can actually help remove some of the swelling around the injury by pushing the fluid into the lymphatic system, therefore clearing the fluid from the area and reducing the pressure on the fracture.
This will make the client more comfortable.
The area immediately surrounding the fracture should be avoided to prevent extreme pain being caused to the client and possibly complicating the fracture by moving the bone.

High Blood Pressure- Red Flag

Client's who suffer from High Blood Pressure should not receive massage which is stimulating or that can increase circulation significantly because this would raise blood pressure further, which could cause heart complications.
Blood pressure is increased by massage because of the pumping action of the massage increases blood flow to the area, this then places greater strain on the heart to push more blood at a greater rate to the area. Increasing pressure on the blood vessels as more blood is pushed through them.
For this reason only very light massage can take place but this should be under the permission of a doctor.

Recent Surgery- Yellow Flag

If a client has recently had surgery their body will be under going a significant healing process. They may also be in a significant amount of pain, because of this they may be under a large amount of stress. A relaxing light massage can help to calm and soothe them, helping to reduce physical and psychological stress.
However it is important to ensure that the massage stays well away from the area that has had the surgery as the internal blood clot could be damaged, increasing the healing time.

Skin conditions eg; Eczema/ Acne- Yellow Flag

It would not be good from the client's POV to massage over an area where skin conditions such as those mentioned above are present as the pressure on the skin would be uncomfortable, may irritate the condition further and could cause the spread of the condition across the body.
An example of this is a client who suffers from acne centred around their back; if a sports therapist was the massage this area then move onto their chest/ shoulders the acne could be spread through to this area, causing the client to have a more widespread problem.
It does not mean that massage has to be completely abandoned, as long as the area where the condition is present is avoided massage can continue.