Massages As Vital As Home Runs in Keeping Red Sox Alive in Pennant Race


August 18, 2010

Massages As Vital As Home Runs in Keeping Red Sox Alive in Pennant Race Baseball hurts sometimes.

After particularly rough games, or even when Red Sox players never see a single pitch, they emerge from side rooms in the clubhouse with wraps of ice on whatever portion of their body might be ailing them.
Others walk around with red shoulders, thighs or calves, evidence of some kneading done behind closed doors.

Ice and massage is one way in which players recover from the rigors of the 162-game slate. When there are quick turnarounds, especially from a night game to a day game, it is important to get the muscles back on track as quickly as possible.

Catchers know this routine as much as anyone. That is why it is common for the backup to take the day game after a night game. But even going the full 24 hours between some games can be taxing.

Jason Varitek has said his muscle work has increased as he has aged and that he is more flexible now than he was when he was in his 20s. Some of that is due to advancements made in the field of sports medicine, which have helped him employ new methods of managing his body. The rest comes from knowing that treating the bumps and bruises is imperative.

"It doesn't happen from standing there and doing nothing," said Varitek, 38.

In addition to a physical therapist, Scott Waugh, the Red Sox employ multiple massage therapists and a chiropractor, Dr. Michael Weinman.

Baseball is not the only line of work where massage therapy can be a valuable resource. The jackhammer is much easier to control if your arms feel fresh, and the stiffness brought on by long hours behind the counter at the bakery can be remedied with a rubdown.

"Therapeutic massage can be used for a variety of muscles and there are many techniques, depending on the depth of the tissue you want to target," according to Kathy Shillue, physical therapist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Types of massage include "efflueuage," a light to medium stroking of the muscles; "petrissage," which is deeper and uses kneading and rolling maneuvers and "friction," which uses concentrated deep pressure. The idea, says Shillue, is to help increase circulation, promote relaxation and reduce muscle soreness.

"There isn't a lot of scientific evidence to explain the physiologic effects of massage," explains Shillue. "However, it has been used for centuries and many people have found it helpful, even if it can't be fully explained."

The Red Sox have had no shortage of players on the disabled list this year. While broken feet like the ones suffered by Varitek and Dustin Pedroia cannot be cured with a shoulder rub, such actions certainly help those on the sidelines remain fresh. We all know how we can feel after staying inactive for several hours, such as on a cross-country flight or at the desk for an eight-hour shift.

So even those players who are days or weeks from becoming active again emerge with ice wraps and evidence of massage. As Varitek implies, it's hard to make progress "standing there and doing nothing."

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