The Sports Massage Series; The Best Massage Techniques for AFL Players

May 30, 2017

What’s the worst thing you can think of happening to you as an AFL player? Some say that losing the game or championship is the worst, with the passion and competitiveness that drives the sport making any competitive failure a massive blow.

But most players have another deeper and darker fear that goes way beyond losing. And it’s not just football players who have this fear. Athletes in all disciplines, from tennis to long-distance runners, are also always on the lookout for preventing it happening to them.

An injury or condition that reduces an athlete’s performance is more often than not the worst nightmare of many professional sportsmen and women. This can happen after a nasty tackle or even just from overtraining. Either way, a fast recovery is essential. One of the best ways to recover from an AFL-related injury is with a deep tissue massage. This prevents further injury, reduces soreness, and speeds up rehabilitation.


It’s beneficial for AFL players to have deep tissue massages either before their games to prevent injury, or to keep their bodies in check during rehabilitation processes. Having regular massages before and after games increases performance by warming up the muscles, as well as helping the body to wind down after physical exertion.


After muscles are used extensively, the fibres can become damaged, and toxins (as well as lactic acid) can accumulate. This is what gives the stiff and achy feeling when you wake up the next morning. This discomfort is called delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS for short). Scientists don’t really know exactly what causes it, but the common idea is that the muscles develop small tears from overuse. Your muscle fibres then become inflamed, causing discomfort and stiffness. Deep tissue massages are perfect for relieving the symptoms of DOMS by breaking up the scars and knots.

There are two parts to a deep tissue massage. The first is stripping, which involves applying pressure and rolling along the length of the fibre. A massage therapist may use their arms or elbows to do this. Next, they use their fingers to apply pressure onto the individual fibres to ease out the tension.

But, there are a few things that you need to be aware of too. The first is that a massage should never be too painful. It needs to be within the pain threshold to have any effect. You should also take note of areas of tenderness that aren’t caused by muscle pain. On the field, tackles and collisions cause small cuts and bruises, and it’s important to be aware of these, because there really is nothing more painful than heavy pressure on a bruised shin.


The biggest benefit for any AFL player is that the massage speeds up recovery. This can range from something as minor as stiff legs after a heavy training session, to recovering from a serious injury like a pulled ligament. The massage can reduce the pain and stress on the muscles.

Regular massages can also increase the range of movement of joints and muscles by restoring their elasticity and flexibility. Both are essential to keep AFL players at their peak level of performance.


Common injuries for AFL players include strains on the hamstrings or in the groin area. For this reason, sports scientists and physiotherapists are constantly trying to find the fastest way to recover. In modern medicine, a sports massage is viewed as one of the best ways to get a football player back to peak fitness.

A post-game massage can reduce stress and increase circulation, as the more blood flow, the quicker the muscle recovery. Massage helps to loosen the fibres of the muscle, which will speed up the recovery process. It’s quite common for your client to feel an almost instant relief when the stress and strains are massaged out. But of course, this isn’t a miracle cure. You also need to advise your client to combine the massage with stretching, rest, and other forms of therapy.

Some players may be out of action for several months with more serious injuries. When a muscle isn’t used, it starts to break down and get stiff. Massages maintain the flexibility and will help you to get your client back to their peak performance level quickly.


Whether you’re just feeling a little stiff from the game or are in the middle of a three-month rehabilitation program, a deep tissue massage can speed up your recovery. Take care of your muscles and reap the benefits of being in peak fitness for every single game.

Cameron Aubrey

Cameron Aubrey has over 20 years experience in the massage industry, and leads the team as Course Director at Discover Massage Australia. Cameron holds a Diploma in Remedial Massage, and his expertise runs across a large range of massage techniques, particularly sports, Swedish and whole body massage.