How to become a sports massage therapist

By Salon Gold on June 29th, 2022

Reducing delayed-onset-of-muscle-soreness, rehabilitating injuries, or preventing them outright: with its multitude of vital uses, massage has earned its place in the sports industry. And it’s growing. For people looking to get started in the industry we have put together a handy guide. Here we have outlined crucial information such as what skills you need, qualifications you need to gain and then, finally, the best ways for you to secure a position.

What does a sports massage therapist do?

Sports massage is a form of physical therapy which involves manipulating the soft tissues of the body to promote recovery. It also limits the future risk of injury and restores normal tissue function following an injury or intense training. The body’s soft tissues become dysfunctional for a variety of reasons. These include injury, trauma, strenuous exercise and repetitive movements. Therapists tend to use a multitude of techniques, including pressure and friction, to release and soften stiff and knotted muscles in order for the body to heal.

What skills do you need as a sports massage therapist?

Social skills

The ability to build an effortless relationship with a stranger and make them feel comfortable is paramount. Possessing these subtle social skills makes the life of both you and your client as relaxed as possible when conducting the service. 


As well as having an innate social smoothness, you’ll also need to be good at explaining things. At times you’ll explain to your clients complex concepts, especially those related to injury and physiology. You’ll need to be able to communicate this in such a way that is easy for them to understand.

Empathy and understanding

It’s important to have a degree of empathy and emotional intelligence. In addition to treating the physical effects of an injury, you may also find yourself dealing with a client’s emotional state. Many people suffer from low self-esteem, anxiety and reduced mood and confidence when they are in pain and injured. Being able to demonstrate a general level of care and support is vital. As such, you will need to be a careful, patient listener and be able to offer genuine empathy while also facilitating a positive outlook on the future of their recovery.

Hard skills

Hard skills refer to the physical, actionable skills you have as a masseuse, such as your knowledge of the human body and your massage technique. You need to be an expert and have the ability to answer any questions your clients may have around their rehabilitation. The majority of this is learned when conducting your qualifications, which we will get into next.

What qualifications do you need to become a sports massage therapist?

There are two paths you can undertake if you want to become a sports massage therapist. These include the academic route and the course route.


The academic route is completed in the context of a degree and over a number of years, usually three. These qualifications will place more emphasis on rehabilitation and other sports science-related subjects such as biomechanics, physiology and research methods. Degree-level therapy qualifications are tailored more towards those wanting to work in a clinical setting or in elite sports, and will usually have a much broader scope and title (e.g. sports therapy).


There are two courses you can do to become a sports massage therapist. First, the Level 3 Diploma in Sports Massage Therapy is the entry-level qualification to sports massage and the minimum standard of qualification required to practice as a therapist. This initial programme goes over the general range of topics that are fundamental to sports massage and soft tissue therapy. These include basics such as knowledge of anatomy and physiology, soft tissue dysfunction, common sports injuries, and massage techniques. It also delves into improving some of the soft skills mentioned earlier, such as consultation skills in professional practice. Following completion of Level 3, you become a legitimate candidate for the Level 4 Certificate in Sports Massage Therapy. This covers a broader and more specific range of subjects, such as advanced therapy techniques, advanced injury management techniques and strategies, movement impairment and dysfunction, as well as the getting experience using the screening tools for injury. You should understand that with all of these qualifications that graduates will only be qualified to work with clients who have already been diagnosed with their injury. This is because it is considered beyond the scope and professional practice of a sports massage therapist to make any formal diagnosis. Instead, this must be left to professional physiotherapists.

How to get work as a sports massage therapist

Exercise and fitness clubs

Participation in exercise is at a record high and so there are more people than ever who are looking for treatments, either to keep injuries at bay, or to treat them with the goal of removing the symptoms. If these people are already in a health club, it makes sense that they can access the treatment in the same environment.

Physiotherapy clinics

It is common for chartered physiotherapists to provide advanced diagnoses and treatments for people who are injured, some of which may include the application of sports massage techniques. However, often a dedicated sports massage therapist in a physio clinic is present in the clinic too. They act as an assistant, providing treatments to clients who have more basic soft tissue injuries.


Did you know that 76% of sports massage therapists are sole practitioners? This is true because being a freelance sports massage therapist allows you to have freedom to bring in your own clients, and even train them in the comfort of their home. The demand for home service is high. The clientele involved in this, also, are not restricted to being those who have contracted injuries or ailments from sports. Some may be regular people who are conscious of the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. For example, the prevalence of neck, shoulder, back and wrist pain is at an all-time high amongst office workers. Sports massage is a great option for people suffering from such injuries Prior to starting up your practice, however, you must consider the administrative side of your business. As a sole practitioner, you are a business owner and it is your responsibility to make sure everything is in order, whether it be self-employed tax or insurance. Luckily for you, we provide comprehensive and specific  sports massage insurance, so you can get it sorted without too much trouble.

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