Sports Massage Certification

Sports massage certification is a specialized credential for massage therapists who work with athletes. Since athletes rely upon their bodies to be finely-tuned machines, they often need help recovering from the rigors of training and competition. Sports massage certification teaches a massage therapist how to build on their skills and expertise in a way that serves the unique needs of athletes. If this is a career path that appeals to you, learn how to earn the credentials you need.

How to Get Started Earning Certification

Sports massage certification is considered a supplemental certification. That means you must first get trained in the fundamentals of massage therapy and earn a license from the state you work in. Once you have entered the field, you can pursue sports massage certification. Since training in sports massage is very specialized, you must have an existing understanding of the theory, science and practice of massage therapy.

Where to Find Sports Massage Certification

Sports massage certification is available from a number of professional organizations and institutions. However, just because an option is available does not mean it is worthwhile.

The leading provider of sports massage certification is the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).

This is the preeminent professional organization for practicing massage therapists, and its sports massage certification program has been endorsed by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB). Training offered by the ATMA offers the highest standard of education and provides the greatest professional benefit.

What to Expect in a Certification Program

The sports massage certification program offered by the ATMA consists of six online courses totaling 21.2 credit hours. Coursework covers the following topics:

  1. Starting Your Career
    Covers the basics of sports massage and how the practice and professional opportunities differ from other specialties.
  2. Ethics and Building Trust
    Explores the ethical considerations unique to sports massage and how to build trust with athletes and other stakeholders.
  3. The Science of Athletics
    Teaches the basics of sports science and how massage therapy can be used to facilitate athletic outcomes.
  4. Injury and Recovery
    Covers the causes and consequences of sports injuries and how massage therapy can be used to provide targeted healing.
  5. Event Protocols
    Explains the settings where sports massage is commonly practiced, and explores the strategies of developing a customized massage therapy plan.
  6. Athletic Care and Conditions
    Covers the most common issues affecting athletes and how massage therapy can be used for prevention and recovery.

In order to earn sports massage certification, students will also need to attend a hands-on workshop offered by the AMTA. These workshops typically involve one full day of training. Finally, students must complete a specialty certification exam administered by the NCBTMB.

Ways to Succeed Beyond Certification

Technically speaking, you do not need sport massage certification in order to work with athletes. But if you want to make sports massage the focus of your career, having specific and specialized credentials will open a up a lot more job opportunities. These are some of the most common environments for experts in sports massage to work in:

  • The athletic training staff of professional or collegiate sports teams
  • In physical therapy settings that work specifically with athletes
  • On an independent basis working with athletes individually

Professionals who are serious about sports massage often go a step beyond certification and earn a degree related to sports science like exercise physiology or kinesiology. There is a lot of overlap between sports massage and general athletic training/recovery, so the more expertise a massage therapist has the more value they provide to athletes and employers. Since success and recovery in sports is often psychological as well as physical, you may get a jump on the competition by taking psychology classes targeting athletes and the sports psychology experience.

Finally but perhaps most importantly, earning sports massage certification is a beginning rather than an ending. The professionals who excel in this role over the long term prioritize continuing education and follow the latest trends in sports science and massage therapy. Certification provides a solid foundation and an adequate introduction. But in order to meet the evolving and advanced needs of athletes, sports massage therapists must always be incorporating new methods, techniques and approaches.


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