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What are the best sports massage books for therapy?

Sport massage to aid recovery in cycling

The 11 best sports massage books for physical, manual or massage therapists, athletic and personal trainers, chiropractors and physiotherapists.

Need a definitive list of the best sports massage books published by Human Kinetics? We thought so too! These books will help you understand every aspect of sports massage.

WARNING – this blog post is a long one, if you want to, you can skip to a handy list of our bestselling sports massages books.

The list includes textbooks for students and reference guides for sports massage professionals. These massage titles will also be of interest to strength and conditioning trainers, instructors of yoga and Pilates, and general fitness professionals seeking to develop and refine their work with clients.

What is sports massage?

Susan Findlay, author of the bestselling book Sports Massage defines sports massage as “a deep form of soft tissue work that is applied in a sporting context. It consists of a variety of techniques that include effleurage, petrissage, tapotement, vibration, compression, deep strokes and friction.”

Sports massage isn’t just for athletes though. It is appropriate for anyone in need of remedial or soft tissue work. Sports massage can be beneficial after surgery and alongside physiotherapy, osteopathy and other rehabilitation therapies.

Why is massage important?

The key benefits of sports massage are psychological, physiological and physical. As well as improving relaxation, combating anxiety and depression. Massage can also help with recovery from injury, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), performance enhancement and injury prevention.

The field of sports massage has grown exponentially over the years. It is now taken for granted that sports clubs at all levels have teams of trained sport massage therapists, gyms and health clubs have their own sport massage professionals to look after all their members’ health, and every high street has a private physiotherapist practice offering sports massage to heal the injured masses.

It’s important that therapists are highly knowledgeable about sports massage. That’s where reliable books and online courses can ensure safe and beneficial treatment for all their clients. You’ll find a wide selection of sports massage and therapy titles published by Human Kinetics. In the article, we’re going to share with you our eleven bestselling sports massage titles.

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The 11 best sports massage books

Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance - sports massage book


Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance

Phillip Page, Clare Frank and Robert Lardner

Movement therapists and massage professionals laud the expertise of
Vladimir Janda, respected neurologist and physiotherapist. Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance: The Janda Approach blends postural techniques, neurology and functional capabilities to enable massage professionals to alleviate chronic musculoskeletal pain and develop functional movement. The Janda approach focuses on the sensorimotor system and how it controls movement.

This book is packed with illustrations, photos and step-by-step instructions. Tools for therapists include:

  • A rationale for musculoskeletal rehabilitation based on the relationship between the central nervous system and the motor system.
  • A systematic examination of the muscular system.
  • Treatments based on the normalisation of peripheral structures, restoration of muscle balance and facilitation of afferent systems and sensorimotor training.
  • The role of muscle imbalance and functional pathology of sensorimotor systems for specific pain complaints.

“This would make a useful addition to every clinician’s library — especially physical therapists, chiropractors, osteopaths, and all those using hands-on therapies.”
Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies

The next sports massage book on our list is unique because it comes with 61 online videos. Clinical Guide to Positional Release Therapy is an easy-to-read reference on the clinical application of positional release therapy (PRT). It gives sports massage professionals an invaluable resource about the art of PRT to gently treat acute and chronic somatic dysfunction, including tightness and pain.

Author Timothy Speicher is president of the Positional Release Therapy Institute. He uses contemporary science and evidence-based practice to provide health care practitioners with a manual of PRT treatment techniques.

The book starts by explaining the foundational skills of the applications, procedures and theory of PRT. Part I explores the research surrounding PRT, providing articles that support the use of PRT through evidence-based practice. It teaches you how to treat various populations, such as elderly patients, competitive athletes and patients with disabilities.

Part II explores PRT techniques by anatomical area. Each region (lower quarter, pelvis, spine, upper quarter and cranium) contains an overview of common injury conditions and their myofascial triggers. It also covers differential diagnoses and instructions on palpating and treating specific anatomical structures. Each chapter in part II also contains self-treatment techniques where appropriate.

The book comes with a free web resource that includes 61 online videos and scanning charts. It details the most common conditions and the techniques used to treat them. Speicher also provides advice about adapting the techniques for other conditions and muscle groups.

All materials are available free with the purchase of the book at

Clinical Guide to Musculoskeletal Pallpation - sports massage book


Clinical Guide to Musculoskeletal Palpation

Michael Masaracchio and Chana Frommer

“The value of skilful palpation is unquestioned among physical therapists; therefore the information in this book is essential for PT practice. The presentation is clear, concise and easy to follow.”

Doody’s Book Review

Musculoskeletal palpation is a method for detecting and treating a variety of injuries and medical conditions. It examines the size, consistency, texture, location and tenderness of anatomical structures.
Clinical Guide to Musculoskeletal Palpation is a comprehensive guide supported by photos that demonstrate palpation techniques for surface body landmarks – all critical to working as a sports massage professional.

What’s refreshing about this sports massage book is that it mixes clinical practice with real-world experience. As working professionals and instructors, Drs. Masaracchio and Frommer are in a unique position to provide a guide that is both clinically oriented and user-friendly. The book divides the human body into regions instead of joints. Bony and soft tissue structures are covered together instead of independently, allowing for better comprehension of anatomical relationships, ultimately leading to improved clinical examination skills.

There are easy-to-follow instructions for all palpation techniques and the anatomical artwork of both bony anatomy and soft tissue structures allows the reader to grasp these relationships.

Myofascial Release- sports massage book


Myofascial Release

Ruth Duncan

“…highly recommend this for any manual therapist interested in adding myofascial release to their current treatments.”

Doody’s Book Review

Myofascial Release provides comprehensive training for hands-on therapists of all disciplines and at all levels to expand their practice.

The descriptions of individual techniques and how to apply them complement broader information such as client interactions and the preservation of practitioner strength and functionality. It really covers every angle of myofascial release.

We were really impressed by the explanations of the anatomy and function of the connective tissue that supports, encompasses and protects every other structure in the body.

The book gives massage practitioners the solid background needed for working most effectively with soft tissue to treat muscle injury, immobility and pain. Ruth Duncan outlines how myofascial release relates to other massage modalities in the Hands-on Guides for Therapists series, ensuring therapists incorporate all of their skills to the greatest effect for their clients.

The key benefits of the book are the colour photographs and descriptions of 60 different myofascial techniques. Explanations about the timing, direction and hold of each stretch are complemented by photographs illustrating the body and hand positions of each technique. Therapists can follow these to apply the best approaches (cross-hand releases, longitudinal plane releases, compression releases and transverse plane releases) on specific injuries or issues and then combine techniques to maximise their effectiveness. The text also contains programmes that clients can use themselves at home.

Myofascial Release provides an entire therapeutic approach as opposed to just the hands-on application that most books offer.

Myofascial Release is part of the Hands-on Guides for Therapists series and features specific tools for assessment and treatment. The books include:

  • Full-colour instructional photographs
  • Tips sections that aid in adjusting massage techniques
  • Client Talk boxes that present ideas for creatively applying techniques for various types of clients
  • Questions for testing knowledge and skill.

Need to know more about Myofascial Release? This blog post is a great place to start: A guide to myofascial release by Ruth Duncan.

Understanding Sports Massage, 2nd Edition  - sports massage book


Understanding Sports Massage, 2nd Edition

Patricia Benjamin and Scott Lamp

This is a classic sports massage book. Understanding Sports Massage 2nd Edition provides the fundamental theory and practical basis for using sports massage to keep athletes in top shape, recover from injuries and improve performance. Like the successful first edition, Understanding Sports Massage is ideal for both professionals and sports massage students. The book illustrates and explains massage techniques in detail and describes the procedures involved in conducting effective sports massage sessions. These include determining goals, organising the session and choosing and applying techniques.

It is the perfect introduction to massage techniques that can be applied in non-medical situations such as in warm-ups, preparing for and recovering from competition, reducing the potential for injuries and aiding in injury rehabilitation.

Understanding Sports Massage 2nd Edition helps you put theory into practice. It first explains the scientific underpinnings of sports massage. Then it describes in detail how to apply those concepts in a massage session.

This “how-to” approach extends to its planning and programming sections, in which the authors lay out the finer points of giving sports massage. Then they guide you in implementing sports massage programmes in various settings. The result is a comprehensive and richly detailed guide to providing the best sports massage in a variety of settings.

Massage for Sport Performance - sports massage book


Massage for Sport Performance

Michael McGillicuddy

High performing athletes rely on sports massage to stay healthy, train harder and recover quickly. The Massage for Sport Performance book and DVD package demonstrates the same techniques used by renowned sports massage therapist Michael McGillicuddy to train and prepare the US Olympic track and field team.

Massage for Sport Performance shows you how to:

  • perform both self-massage and partner-assisted massage
  • administer the most effective routines for pre- and post-competition
  • stretch, warm up, and activate primary muscles
  • treat critical muscle groups for elevated performance
  • speed recovery 
  • minimize injury, pain and fatigue.

Throughout you’ll also find advice, tips and variations for specific sports. As well as massage recommendations for basketball, running, track and field, soccer and swimming.

Massage for Sport Performance features step-by-step instruction, photo sequences and video demonstrations of the primary techniques. Below is a sample video clip explaining how to give a sports massage.

How to give a sports massage

Massage Therapy - sports massage book


Massage Therapy

Trish Dryden and Christopher Moyer

Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice presents the latest research examining the evidence for various massage therapy techniques treating pathological conditions and special populations. In this resource, you will:

  • Find a synthesis of information from the diverse fields of sports science, medicine, nursing, physical therapy and psychology;
  • Learn the benefits of evidence-based massage therapy practice;
  • Understand various research methods;
  • Develop research skills by learning guidelines for writing case reports and journal articles; and
  • Understand how to integrate massage therapy research into education and clinical practice.

The text combines both research and practice in four parts. First, it provides a background to the field of massage therapy. This is then followed by a discussion of the research methods available.

Next, is an evidence-based presentation of the effectiveness of massage therapy for conditions and populations often encountered by sports massage professionals.

This clinical section presents three patient populations (pediatric, athletic and elderly); three pain-related types (headache, neck and shoulder pain, and low back pain); and six common conditions: pregnancy and labour, scar treatment, cancer, fibromyalgia, anxiety and depression, and clients who have experienced sexual trauma. Recommendations and evidence-based treatment guidelines are clearly defined for each condition.

The text also includes real-life case studies, offering you a real-world context for the clinical content presented.

The final section specifies ways to integrate research into the educational and professional development of current and future massage therapists. It provides the fundamental tools for a research-based approach in clinical practice, especially as it relates to special populations.

Massage Therapy: Integrating Research and Practice offers a useful running glossary, chapter summaries and critical thinking questions to ensure key points are learnt as you progress.

Deep Tissue Massage - sports massage book


Deep Tissue Massage

Jane Johnson

Many clients enjoy the sensation of deep tissue massage. Yet some therapists shy away from incorporating it into their treatments, believing it requires too greater force or they are anxious about how to apply pressure safely.

Deep Tissue Massage describes 83 safe and effective compressive and stretching techniques. The step-by-step guidelines and over 165 colour photos, help you deliver comfortable and satisfying massages to your clients. The book is organised into body sections (trunk, legs and arms) and by patient position (three-quarter lying, supine, prone and seated). Once you have learned the techniques, you then learn to incorporate them into effective routines, moving the client from one position to the next.

Deep Tissue Massage is written in easily accessible language. It explains techniques for sports massage professionals that use forearms, fists and elbows, avoiding overuse of your hands.

Jane Johnson, MSc, is a chartered physiotherapist and sports massage therapist, she has used and taught deep tissue massage (DTM) for many years. She has a thorough grounding in anatomy, which she uses to explain DTM in straightforward terms. Having worked with numerous clients including athletes, recreational exercisers, office workers and older adults, she has adapted DTM as required and is able to provide tips not found in other massage books.

Free webinar from Jane Johnson and the FHT

You can hear more from Jane Johnson herself with this free webinar recording about treating neck pain. The webinar was hosted in partnership with the Federation of Holistic Therapists (FHT).

In Sports Massage for Injury Care, experienced sports therapist Bob McAtee explains the types of soft tissue injury most common in sport. He also explains why manual therapy is so valuable in treating musculoskeletal injuries.

No two injuries are the same. Whether an injury is acute or chronic, you need to understand and treat the underlying cause so your athletes don’t become susceptible to re-injury. Sports Massage for Injury Care emphasises the importance of accurate assessment and evaluation and it focuses on 20 of the most common neuromuscular injuries seen in athletes. For each featured injury, there are assessment recommendations, treatment options and injury-specific protocols and self-care options for when the athlete is not on the treatment table.

You will learn the evidence behind the most effective techniques, based on clinical research. Each treatment protocol is presented with vivid full-colour photos and step-by-step instructions. Detailed anatomical illustrations show you the muscles, joints, and soft tissues involved. Practitioner examples and case studies show how other professionals use the techniques to help their clients heal quicker.

Robert E. McAtee, BA, LMT, BCTMB, CSCS, has run a massage therapy practice for over 38 years. He specialises in sports massage and soft tissue therapy, with significant clinical experience in treating people with injuries and chronic pain.

McAtee is designated an Approved Provider by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). He is a sought-after presenter on the topics of facilitated stretching, sports massage and soft tissue injury care.

He is also the co-author of the best-selling book Facilitated Stretching, Fourth Edition, used by health and fitness professionals worldwide as their go-to resource for PNF stretching and strengthening techniques. And if you are wondering ‘What is PNF stretching and how should you use it?‘ Then this is the blog post for you!

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Soft Tissue and Trigger Point Release Sports Massage Book

Soft Tissue and Trigger Point Release, 2nd Edition, is a practical guide for understanding and applying soft tissue release (STR). It includes how STR can be used to deactivate trigger points and maximise patient outcomes of treatment and rehabilitation. Whether you are a student or a professional, the detailed instruction and numerous photos will help you gain proficiency and confidence in applying these techniques.

Soft Tissue and Trigger Point Release thoroughly explains the differences between the three types of STR—passive (clients do not help), active-assisted (clients and therapists work together) and active (clients do it on their own)—and provides step-by-step descriptions for performing each type. This edition incorporates new content on how STR may be used to deactivate trigger points, aiding in the treatment of musculoskeletal pain. Additional updates include the following:

  • More than 150 new photographs and 21 new anatomical illustrations
  • Guiding arrows overlaid on photos to show the direction in which to apply pressure
  • Illustrations of trigger points found in 21 muscles
  • New descriptions of the use of active-assisted STR on the iliotibial band (ITB), infraspinatus, biceps brachii and triceps
  • New sections describing how to apply active STR to gluteals, trapezius, scalenes, rhomboid and pectoral muscles
  • Instruction for applying passive STR to shoulder adductors
  • Case studies providing examples of how STR was used with four clients with differing problems.

Each technique is explained with information on the key holds, moves and stances for various muscles. There are also handy reference charts indicating the types of clients and situations for which each technique is particularly useful. The full-colour photos depict the locks and stretches, while some of the more difficult techniques are accompanied by photos showing the position of the therapist and a skeletal overlay on the client so you can pinpoint the specific muscle being targeted.

The book also explains how to use alternative options—such as massage tools and forearms, fists and elbows—to protect your hands and thumbs from overuse. Tip boxes offer practical comments on applying the techniques, while ‘Client Talk’ boxes provide insight into real-world situations.

Soft Tissue and Trigger Point Release also shows you how to incorporate the proper techniques into a treatment programme. It guides you through the consultation process and provides examples of initial questions to ask clients and various assessment forms to use in identifying clients’ needs. Using case studies and comparisons, you will learn how the data gleaned from clients can guide the design of an effective treatment programme.

You can read more by author Jane Johnson:
Postural assessment of the pelvis with Jane Johnson
Bestselling book on Postural Assessment
Tips on how to reduce back pain when sitting from Jane Johnson
Active assisted soft tissue release for the upper back
How to fix an anterior tilt in the pelvis

Soft Tissue and Trigger Point Release, Second Editionis part of the Hands-on Guides for Therapists series, developed to provide the best clinical and educational resources available for those in bodywork professions.

Sports Massage - sports massage book


Sports Massage

Susan Findlay

And, the best book on sports massage is called… Sports Massage!

Sports Massage provides an in-depth discussion of the applications of foundational massage techniques within a sports massage approach.

Thorough instructions and over 130 full-colour photos demonstrate the correct application of each massage stroke for muscle groups of the neck, shoulder, torso, pelvis, legs and feet. You’ll also learn how to use advanced working positions in prone, supine, side-lying and sitting orientations to address each muscle group. This helps you achieve a more comfortable and therapeutic session for your client.

This practical guide explains the foundations of sports massage as a profession. It then explains the performance-related benefits of sports massage, common environments for professional practice (practice, event, clinical), range of clientele (recreational or serious athletes, physically active people) and applications (pre-, inter- and post-event or as part of a training regimen or rehabilitation programme).

Sports Massage emphasises proper therapist mechanics, including working posture, proper table height and effective client positioning. These improve the delivery of your technique and reduce strain to your arms, hands and back.

Organised for quick reference, Sports Massage explains massage modifications for common injuries and conditions. It also provides technical information to support your decision-making process. Information regarding contraindications and pathologies gives you the tools to adapt your technique to accommodate a wide range of soft tissue conditions. In addition, discussion of equipment, hygiene and safety considerations will help you be prepared for each therapy session.

A discussion of client assessment and consultation allows you to obtain the necessary information for addressing muscular issues during the therapy session. Sports Massage also discusses considerations for special populations, including spinal cord injuries, limb deficiencies, visual impairments and cerebral palsy. Additionally, you’ll find information on conducting sports massage before, during and after sporting events.

Susan Findlay, BSc RGN, Dip SRMT, is the director of the North London School of Sports Massage, where she is a sport and remedial massage therapist and lecturer. Findlay’s experiences as a ballet dancer, gymnast, personal trainer and nurse have allowed her to develop both an applied and a clinical understanding of human movement, physical activity, anatomy and physiology.

Findlay is the co-founder of the Institute of Sport and Remedial Massage. She also serves as chair of communications on the General Council for Massage Therapies and as an educational advisor to the Sports Massage Association.

Hands-on Guides for Therapists

You probably noticed many of the titles featured in our list of best sports massage books were taken from the popular Hands-on Guides for Therapists series. The series has become synonymous with the world of sports massage. Often the first port of call for sport massage professionals searching for reliable, specific information with clear photographs of the techniques. Other titles in the series can be seen below.

Therapeutic Stretching - Sports Massage Book
Postural Assessment - sports massage book
Postural Correction - sports massage book

The full series includes Postural Correction, Postural Assessment, Deep Tissue Massage, Therapeutic Stretching, Sports Massage, Soft Tissue and Trigger Point Release-2nd Edition and Myofascial Release.

Human Kinetics 11 bestselling sports massage books

To recap, that list in full of the eleven bestselling sports massage books:

  1. Sports Massage by Susan Findlay
  2. Soft Tissue and Trigger Point Release, 2nd Edition by Jane Johnson
  3. Sports Massage for Injury Care by Robert McAtee
  4. Deep Tissue Massage by Jane Johnson
  5. Massage Therapy by Trish Dryden and Christopher Moyer
  6. Massage for Sport Performance by Michael McGillicuddy
  7. Understanding Sports Massage, 2nd Edition by Patricia Benjamin and Scott Lamp
  8. Myofascial Release by Ruth Duncan
  9. Clinical Guide to Musculoskeletal Palpation by Michael Masaracchio and Chana Frommer
  10. Clinical Guide to Positional Release Therapy With Web Resource by Timothy Speicher
  11. Assessment and Treatment of Muscle Imbalance by Phillip Page, Clare Frank and Robert Lardner

Sports massage courses

Many of our titles are also available as online courses. These training courses are ideal CPD for sports massage therapy professionals. The courses come complete with ebooks and some have video, interactive quizzes and more. They cover sports massage, anatomy and physiology, stretching, palpation and many other clinical applications. Many courses are endorsed or accredited by leading global organisations including FHT, BASES, REPs, ACE and ACSM.

You can learn more about Human Kinetics massage, athletic training and therapy courses here.

More best book lists

If this list of bestselling sports massage books has whet your appetite, and you want to learn more about popular books from Human Kinetics, then check these out:

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