How to Become a Sports Massage Therapist


A sports massage therapist works in a special field of massage therapy that helps athletes recover, and prepare for vigorous performance. Sports massage therapy can help heal injuries, and also help athletes prevent injury by working the muscles and tendons in the body.

Many people enjoy the benefits of sports massage, not just athletes. Sports massage therapy can help improve injuries anyone has, as well as improve range of motion, and reduce chronic pain and discomfort. A massage therapist specializing in sports massage will often focus massage therapy in one area or on one specific problem region in the body, such as the neck or shoulders, or lower back.

Sports massage is very much like Swedish massage therapy, in that it helps stimulate the circulation of lymph fluid in the body, as well as gets the blood moving. Some massage therapists specializing in sport therapy are also trained to help break down knots in the muscles, often known as adhesions, which helps improve the body’s range of motion.

Work Environment

A sports massage therapist may work in many different environments, including in outdoor environments depending on their position. Some may help athletes preparing for races including marathons, triathlons, and other events, which may require working outdoors for these special affairs. The weather may vary from very hot to quite cool. When working indoors, a sports massage therapist may work in private practice, in spas, in hotels, in physician’s offices, in conjunction with other health practitioners including chiropractors and other therapist’s like physical and occupational therapists. Rehabilitation facilities may also hire sports massage therapists as may orthopedic centers.



To become a sports massage therapist, you will typically require specialized training in massage therapy, and may require additional specialization in sport massage techniques. Most training programs offer 500 hours or more of study in massage therapy techniques. Usually each state and region has its own requirements and programs in massage therapy, and regulations.


Training for sports massage therapy includes 500 hours or more of study and practical, hands on experience by an accredited facility. Most training includes coursework in anatomy and physiology, and the use of certain modalities that may improve healing, including heat. You may learn special techniques that may accompany sports therapy. Often training is available on a full-time or part-time basis.


Licensing and certification is not standardized by state and region. To find out what your state’s requirements are to become a sports massage therapist, you should check in with your state board. Most massage therapists go for the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork, also known as the NCETMB. This test is a widely known and accepted license and certification for body workers. Another certification or nationally recognized test for massage therapists is the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination.

Necessary Skills/Qualities

Massage therapists have many unique skills, talents, and abilities that make them uniquely qualified to perform their jobs well. Among the more common characteristics of sport massage therapists include:

  • Excellent communication and empathy. Sport massage therapists must learn how to speak well and listen well to their clients. Having empathy allows a therapist to understand the pain and discomfort their clients are feeling.
  • Strong physical health. Many massage therapists will stand for hours treating patients, and working on clients. It is important that you have good physical strength, and take care of your body so that you can succeed in this field.
  • Problem-solving ability. There may be challenging cases that require you to work around problems or conflicts that your clients have. Understanding how to work around difficult cases will give you an edge, as will the ability to gain the trust of your clients.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean average salary of massage therapists as of May 2012 was $40,350, with the top 90 percent of therapists making as much as $70,140 per year.

Job Outlook

Massage therapy is a good and promising field to embark in, with job growth expected to improve by up to 20 percent through 2020 according to the BLS. Growth is especially promising in areas including in spas and resources, with franchises also showing promise, as will growth for other healthcare occupations. Sports massage is a respected area of treatment, known to improve health by helping patients recover from pain and improve overall health and wellness.

Related Reading

References and Further Reading

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