One hundred-forty athletes from eight area high schools competed in weight-lifting and conditioning tests to measure how prepared they are for fall sports, and MSB massage students were on hand to administer sports massages between sessions.
Rocori High School instructor and strength coach, Jake Zauhar, organized the second annual event and believes that athletes are at “a huge advantage to have massage on the spot. Each lift builds tension in the muscles used. Once they get the muscles massaged out, they are back to full recovery and can resume lifting at full capacity,” he said. “This enables them to stay competing at their highest levels for the two to three hours they compete. Athletes who give it all on one lift are now not physically penalized for doing so.”
Massage therapy program chair Michelle Willenbring stresses that the MSB students were administering events massage, which differs from a full sports massage because its intent is to “keep blood flowing properly throughout the muscle tissue so [the athletes] would be at the top of their game when moving from event to event,” she said.
“After an hour of [full] sports massage, your muscles would feel like jelly and you wouldn’t perform at your max during events,” adds massage therapy student, Louisa Schlosser.
That is why the focus was on short, 3-5 minute, pre- and inter-event massages. “I wanted the athletes to stay loose while they waited and work muscles between events,” Schlosser explains, “so they wouldn’t cramp or tighten up”.
Schlosser says she “would love to find a job with a sports team someday,” so the Spartan Challenge was great experience for her.
Willenbring emphasizes that massaging athletes oftentimes means working with injuries. “We saw a shoulder sprain, quad pull, and even got a big thank you from an athlete who had broken his hand [at the event] last year!”
And what of the athletes themselves? How do they respond to on-the-spot massage?
“The massage almost seems more of a draw than the actual competition,” laughs Coach Zauhar. “The athletes that I work with at Rocori all talk about it for weeks leading up to the Challenge day, and it is usually the first thing they ask about each summer. Athletes from other schools really have talked it up as well. It is one of the highlights of the event!”