sports massage ice skater

From college football players and competitive cyclists to elite ice skaters and gymnasts, the CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center attracts an array of high-level athletes.

Located on the campus of the University of Colorado, Boulder, the facility also serves people of all ages and ability levels who are working to overcome injury or improve movement.

“It is the vision of the CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center to be a community, regional, national and international destination for athletes and active people who seek the highest quality of medicine and science to optimize their peak performance and quality of life,” according to the center’s website.


Sports Massage Integrated

The clinic takes an integrated approach to treating medical conditions and improving athletic performance, merging the talents of professionals who range from surgeons and sports scientists to physical therapists and athletic trainers. Inside the 27,000-square-foot CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center, there’s a staff of around 75 people, including three massage therapists, who provide sports massage for athletes and others.


“I believe massage therapy plays an essential role in sports performance and rehabilitation because it can help prevent injuries and aid in a faster recovery,” said Kate Dean, one of the center’s massage therapists. “It breaks up adhesions that form in and around the muscles, decreases trigger points, breaks up scar tissue, and can focus on the deep layers of muscle and fascia.”



Dean, who graduated from the Boulder College of Massage Therapy, worked as a massage therapist for the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine for close to five years before that center merged with the University of Colorado School of Medicine to build a sports medicine team that consists of experts from both the local community and the university.

“In August 2015, we merged with CU Sports Medicine to create the CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center, and I have been there since we opened, working part-time,” Dean said. “We offer 30, 45, 60 and 90-minute massages, so my daily patient load can vary quite a bit. On average, I see six to eight patients a day, depending on the length of time they schedule for.”


gymnast on parallel bars

Referrals to Sports Massage Therapists

According to Dean, most of these clients are referred to one of the center’s massage therapists directly from the physical therapists and physicians who work there. Common issues among the clients, who span the spectrum from professional athletes to weekend warriors, include low-back pain, joint pain and muscle tension.

“My goal is always to meet my clients’ needs, and in most cases, that involves decreasing pain and increasing range of motion. Informing and educating my clients about their body is another important aspect in my treatment,” Dean said, speaking about massage for athletes.

“The techniques I use depend on the client I’m seeing—every person is different, and so is his or her tissue. Some clients I need to get really aggressive with and do vigorous work, where with others I have to take a much softer approach.”


road race

Working Hand-in-Hand

One of the best parts about being on staff at the CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center, Dean said, is the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with other experts who are dedicated to helping clients heal and enhance performance in a variety of complementary ways.

“What I love about being part of an integrated system is all the resources we have available. At the CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center, we offer a variety of therapies that include physical therapy, Pilates, multi-disciplinary gait analysis, performance coaching, concussion management and sports-specific biomechanical analysis, just to name a few,” Dean said. “I also enjoy treating with a team approach and looking at why the injury happened, as opposed to just the injury. It’s a great way to bounce ideas off one another.”


About the Author

Brandi Schlossberg is an avid bodywork client and full-time journalist based in Reno, Nevada. She has written on many topics for MASSAGE Magazine, including “Grant Supports CAM Health Care for Cancer Patients” and “A Day in the Life of an Integrative Medicine Massage Therapist.”