How Sports Massage Benefits People Doing OCR's

OCR’s or obstacle course races are a new and upcoming sport in the UK, that have had a recent spike in participation levels. They have been around in America for a lot longer so when events are held in the US, they are generally taken more seriously. They can be seen as a bit of fun or a hobby, or people can be training for them everyday of the week to run competitively. Either way it comes with its risks, and a fun activity can very easily become dangerous.

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OCR’s consist of a mixture of running and completing obstacles. The obstacles in the course can be anything - climbing over walls, carrying heavy objects, traversing through bodies of water, crawling under barbed wire jumping over fire, running through mud pits; they really get creative with it! Many obstacles are similar to those of military training, but others are individual to the sport. The courses are there to test endurance, speed, strength and dexterity; again there is clearly a high risk of injury. These races are very much about teamwork and team spirit, (maybe less so when participating competitively), so people will end up pushing a stranger up so they can reach the top of the wall for example, and it’s normalised. This is what makes them so enjoyable and addictive to anyone that has been involved.

You use the majority of your muscles in OCR’s, due to the massive amount of obstacles in each race. Races can vary from 5k to 20 miles, so every race has a different number of challenges. The aim of these races are to work and tire out every inch of your body. Many people see this as part of the challenge. First of all a big part of OCR’s is grip strength. Forearm muscles, such as the flexor carpi radialis, have to be strong in order to grip thin ledges in which many obstacles entail. Due to these muscles being frequently used, they become very tight and can result in either injuring the risk for example, or if the person is doing an obstacle and they hurt their arm, they could fall and injure something else.

Next the whole of the legs are used - the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and gluteal muscles. A lot of the race consists of running and obviously that requires good leg strength. However, due to constantly using these muscles, they will get tight, resulting in things like patella tendonitis and oscar slatus (extra bone growth on the knee). This can be very painful and can cause running to be a difficulty. Other issues could be muscle strains or tears from falling or landing funny. Sports massage can help aid recovery from this or prevent it in the first place.

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In the torso, the core and back can be affected. The majority of the obstacles require these to be strong, especially for heavy carries. The core provides that stability needed to safely carry a heavy boulder for example. On the other hand, even if you have a stable back and core, heavy lifting can cause distress, particularly to the lumbar. A lot of the impact goes through the lower back so even landing could jolt and injure it. Sports massage cannot guarantee to prevent this issue but it can help aid the recovery, along with sports tape, ultrasound and dry needling.

The ankles are commonly injured during OCR’s for a number of reasons. To name a couple, it is very easy to roll the, especially because it is mostly cross country or on the grass, and heavy landing as well; when dropping from heights.

The final muscles used frequently are the triceps, biceps and shoulder muscles. Several of the obstacles require a pulling up action which would need someone to be relatively strong; they have to pull up their entire bodyweight. If your arms were to collapse or you were to lose control, there is potential to dislocate a joint or strain a muscle. This can be done when hanging from monkey bars for example. Sports massage can not only speed up the healing process, but also prevent injury by being given exercises to strengthen the muscles in advance.

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before completing an OCR, everyone has to sign a form to accept all of these risks. This in itself shows that it can be dangerous if you aren’t sensible and realistic about your abilities. Races like Spartan, motivate people to do the obstacles by making people do 30 burpees on the ones they don’t complete. This can be an alternative if you are injured or don’t feel able to do an obstacle. For the average person, the injuries I have mentioned aren’t as likely as you would think (they are worst case scenario), as a lot of precautions are taken.

Overall, OCR’s can be seen as quite dangerous and risky, but they are a lot of fun and end up being worth it almost every time.

Megan Jones

Samantha Bramley