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Effect of sports massage on performance and recovery: a systematic review and meta-analysis
  1. Holly Louisa Davis,
  2. Samer Alabed,
  3. Timothy James Ainsley Chico
  1. Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Timothy James Ainsley Chico, Infection, Immunity and Cardiovascular Disease, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK; t.j.chico{at}


Objective Massage is ubiquitous in elite sport and increasingly common at amateur level but the evidence base for this intervention has not been reviewed systematically. We therefore performed a systematic review and meta-analysis examining the effect of massage on measures of sporting performance and recovery.

Design and eligibility We searched PubMed, MEDLINE and Cochrane to identify randomised studies that tested the effect of manual massage on measures of sporting performance and/or recovery. We performed separate meta-analyses on the endpoints of; strength, jump, sprint, endurance, flexibility, fatigue and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

Results We identified 29 eligible studies recruiting 1012 participants, representing the largest examination of the effects of massage. We found no evidence that massage improves measures of strength, jump, sprint, endurance or fatigue, but massage was associated with small but statistically significant improvements in flexibility and DOMS.

Conclusion Although our study finds no evidence that sports massage improves performance directly, it may somewhat improve flexibility and DOMS. Our findings help guide the coach and athlete about the benefits of massage and inform decisions about incorporating this into training and competition.

  • physiotherapy
  • performance
  • DOMS
  • endurance

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  • Contributors HD and TC conceived and conducted the study. All authors wrote the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting or dissemination plans of this research.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Datasets and results of analysis are available upon request.