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Student athletes receiving free massage therapy

For the past month, four massage therapy students from the National Holistic Institute in Emeryville have been coordinating free massages for Mills student-athletes.

Many assumed that the massages were coordinated by Mills students in the massage class, however, the effort was actually organized by massage therapy students from the National Holistic Institute (NHI) in Emeryville.

Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation (APER) Head Athletic Trainer, Natalie Spangler, was approached by the massage therapy students.

“They were looking to complete externship hours as well as gain experience with the athletic population,” Spangler said, “It’s a service our student-athletes would want, and something they could also benefit from.”

According to the Ohio State University Sports Medicine Center, up to 45 percent of the total time in physiotherapy for sport-related injury and performance consists of massage treatments. Though this service is open to all athletes, the Mills soccer team was especially grateful.

Throughout the season there were multiple injuries per player, and some were tougher than others, so to know we were receiving free, professional massages was awesome,” Mills first-year and soccer player Alondra Rios said. 

Rios was surprised with how easy the process was. An email was sent to all Mills athletes with dates and times the massage therapy students would be available and athletes were reminded before their appointment to arrive early in order to fill out paperwork. The day of their appointment, athletes greeted their massage therapist, discussed what areas needed more focus and were asked “oil, or lotion?”

The physical benefits of massage therapy include relief of muscle tension and stiffness, faster healing of sprained ligaments and strained muscles, reduced muscle pain and swelling, increased joint flexibility and muscle blood flow and overall enhanced athletic performance, according to the American Massage Therapy Association.

“The experience was a little nerve-racking because the massages I’m usually used to are with clothes on and from a family member or friend,” Rios said. “Here I was getting a massage from someone who knew what they were doing.”

It is the first time NHI has offered this service to Mills and, as of now, it’s only available to student-athletes, but may possibly open up to faculty and staff later in the semester.

“At this time, there is no way we can open it up to all students on campus due to the fact that there are limited spots available and a potentially unmanageable task to coordinate,” Spangler said.  One or two massage therapists-in-training have been coming once or twice per week, and student-athletes sign up in advance through the Mills Athletic Trainers, who are coordinating the massages.

Rios believes Mills athletes were offered this service because the athletic trainers know how many injuries there are in sports and usually the athletes are getting injuries treated in the athletic training room. “I think this was a win-win situation for the athletic trainers, and the student-athletes,” Rios said.

This service will continue until these massage therapists-in-training have completed all of their externship hours, which could go into next semester.

“If more NHI students are interested in doing their externship hours at Mills, it is something we will consider continuing in the future,” Spangler said.