Informed Consent for Sports Massages

To give yourself and your clients peace of mind, you should always get informed consent for sports massage therapy before commencing treatment.

If you are wondering why informed consent is so important or how you should go about gaining it, we’ve got you covered! In this article, we will discuss:

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What is Informed Consent in Sports Massage?

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Informed consent is a communication process between a person or business and their client.

The aim of this process is to gain permission from the client to fulfil a specific purpose. It is a way of making sure that the client is fully aware of the possible benefits, risks, and consequences of what they are agreeing to.

You may typically think of informed consent being used in a medical setting to protect patients in case their treatment goes wrong. For instance, it could cause a life-threatening injury.

However, having an informed consent procedure is also an important part of the sports massage therapist job description

This is because from the information you provide about the treatment, clients should be able to decide whether they would like to go ahead with the massage.

There are three types of informed consent that a sports massage therapist may use. These are:

  1. Implied ConsentThis is a loose type of consent which is inferred by actions and can therefore cause misunderstandings. For instance, a client showing up to their SMT appointment means that they consent to what is involved in the massage.
  2. Verbal ConsentThis type of consent is where you gain consent through conversation, by answering the client’s questions. The client will then consent to the treatment without signing a written form.
  3. Written ConsentAlso known as formal consent, this is the recommended type of consent for sports massage therapists to use as it requires clients to sign a form acknowledging that they understand the treatment.

To gain informed consent from clients, sports massage therapists should therefore provide them with a consent form to sign before their first session.

Clients must sign the informed consent document of their own accord, meaning that they must not feel forced to sign it under pressure from you.

They must also be signing it with all of the information that they need about the procedure that they are about to undergo.

For instance, when a client undergoes a vigorous style of sports massage such as Tapotement for the first time, it is important that they know beforehand that they are likely to experience soreness.

If they are not expecting this, they may feel that you as the sports massage therapist have performed your role incorrectly and have caused damage to their muscles.

Understanding the Importance of Informed Consent for Sports Massage

informed consent sports massage 9

Using an informed consent form for sports massage is crucial, as it protects both sports massage therapists and their clients.

The form acts as a contract which holds both parties accountable for the process which is about to happen. This is because the client is aware of exactly what to expect during and after their treatment, which reduces the chance of miscommunication.

Signing a sports massage consent form will also show that you made the client aware of the sports massage contraindications, risks, and side effects of sports massage beforehand.

This ensures that the client leaves happy with their result and will recommend you to friends and family, who may also become paying clients!

Gaining informed consent therefore helps to reassure clients as they know what to expect, know that their treatment will be safe, and ensures that they are protected should the worst happen.

Get Insurance to Cover Yourself as a Sports Massage Therapist 

sports massage informed consent

As well as informed consent, it is also essential that you get sports massage insurance to cover yourself in case a client becomes injured or ill as a result of your massage services.

For example, a client may incur a muscle strain or have an allergic reaction to a massage oil that you used.

Insurance will therefore cover any legal costs that you may incur as a result of negligence claims brought against you. It will also cover any payouts that you may need to make to clients for compensation.

Although an informed consent form cannot replace an insurance policy, it can work in tandem with it to better protect you as a sports massage therapist.

Whilst it isn’t a legal requirement for sports massage therapists to get informed consent, it is hugely important in case a client files a claim of negligence against you.

informed consent sports massage 8

For instance, you may include a section in your informed consent form on the possible adverse reactions that a client may have.

You may also include a list of contraindications that make it inadvisable for clients to undergo the treatment and state that clients should inform you of these before treatment commences.

If a client then has an adverse reaction to the massage as a result of a contraindication that they didn’t disclose, you have their signature on an informed consent form to show that you made them aware of the risks beforehand.

This makes it easier for your legal representation to argue in your favour when it comes to a negligence case. 

Overall, keeping informed consent forms as proof of your communication with clients. Along with having a good insurance policy, it helps to mitigate your liability in legal cases and give you financial protection. 


Securing Informed Consent as a Sports Massage Therapist

informed consent sports massage 7

As we have mentioned, informed consent is usually gained from clients through a written form, which the therapist will give to clients as part of their initial consultation.

This will provide step-by-step details of every element of their appointment, from when they first enter the room to the massage process itself and any massage aftercare they need to be aware of.

It is important that informed consent is gained during the initial consultation, as this allows you to fully outline their treatment programme before any treatment has taken place. 

Gaining informed consent at this point also ensures that they know exactly what to expect from the treatment that they are about to receive and can back out before the massage commences.

sports massage informed consent 2

This gives the client a chance to ask any questions and therefore prevents any confusion which may lead to the client leaving the therapy room dissatisfied with your service.

Using a consent form for sports massage before treatment is also beneficial to you as the sports massage therapist.

It means that you can get an idea of what the client wants from their massage and the areas they would like you to avoid.

For example, some clients may not be comfortable with you touching certain parts of their body or removing clothing from the lower half of their bodies.

If you gather this information during the consultation, you can therefore adapt your treatment to ensure that it factors in the client’s personal needs.

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What You Need to Include as Part of a Sports Massage Informed Consent Form

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Now that you know what informed consent is and why you should always gain it before commencing treatment, you may be wondering what to include on your form.

Here are the sections that we would recommend, to ensure that you are able to provide the client with as much detail about the treatment as possible:

#1- A Sports Massage Consent Form Should State What the Purpose of the Massage Is

Firstly, you should always include the purpose of the treatment when gaining informed consent for sports massage.

This is so that the client understands what a sports massage is and the intended outcome of the massage. They can then judge whether this is the right form of treatment for them.

For example, Physio Flex’s informed consent form emphasises the fact that SMT is a process, beginning with an examination.

informed consent sports massage

This demonstrates that after the initial consultation and examination, you will come up with a treatment programme that considers their needs, along with a prognosis for how long the course of treatment will take.

The client will therefore not leave their first session unhappy and will want to book more sessions with you to achieve the intended outcome that you have discussed.

#2- State What the Massage Will Involve on a Sports Massage Informed Consent Form

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From Effleurage to Tapotement, it’s likely that you’ll be using a range of massage techniques on each client depending on their individual needs. 

It is therefore important in your informed consent form for sports massage to state what the massage will involve.

For example, GTD Sports Therapy asks clients to recognise that their massage may involve a series of different techniques which may be unfamiliar to them, but will be fully explained before treatment commences.

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This ensures that the client knows exactly what to expect before the massage starts and will not be shocked when you begin treatment.

Both the client and the massage therapist will feel comfortable, and the client will know that the treatment you are giving is beneficial to them.

#3- Emphasise Any Inherent Risks When Creating Your Sports Massage Consent Form

Highlighting potential risks is perhaps one of the most important parts of an informed consent form for sports massage therapists.

Clients should know that whilst you will conduct treatments in the proper manner and ensure that they are carried out safely, there are inherent risks to all SMT treatments.

You may choose to include a list of potential holistic side effects that clients are likely to experience, as shown in this template from the Association of Massage Therapists:

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However, you may need to personalise this list to the client, depending on any conditions that they may have stated that they have.

For instance, if they have diabetes, you should include the risk of hypoglycaemia, even if you have deemed that it is safe for the client to receive treatment.

This makes the client aware of the potential risks of the treatment so that they can make an informed decision on whether to go ahead.

As previously mentioned, this also protects you if a client brings a compensation claim against you for any negative side effects experienced after their treatment.


#4- Explain What the Client Should Do If They Feel Pain During The Massage

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Another element that should always be included in an informed consent form is the steps that a client should take if they begin to experience pain.

Particularly for new clients, sports massage can be painful as the therapist will be manipulating muscles in ways that they are not used to.

However, if a client is experiencing extreme pain this may not be normal and could cause further injury if you continue the massage.

It is therefore crucial that as part of your informed consent procedure for sports massage, clients are aware that they should inform you in this case, as shown in the form below from Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals.

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This provides the client with boundaries to ensure they are comfortable at all times, as well as giving you the opportunity to alter the technique you are using so that it is more comfortable for the client.

This ability to respond to each individual client is one of the most important roles of a sports massage therapist

Along with preventing them from sustaining an injury, it also ensures that they feel safe to return for another session in the knowledge that they can inform you if they experience pain or discomfort.

This shows that you are highly professional and have the client’s needs and comfort in mind at all times.

#5- An Informed Consent Procedure for Sports Massage Should Explain the Client’s Rights

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Along with knowing what to expect from the session, the client should also be aware of the rights that they have within the treatment room.

For instance, if a client feels uncomfortable at any point during the session, they should know that they can stop the treatment.

This is shown in the sports massage consent form from Physio Flex, which suggests that clients can refuse any treatment both before or during the massage.

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You should also state that the client has a right to understand what their treatment will consist of. If they are unsure at any point, they have the right to a full explanation from the therapist.

This ensures that the client understands how every part of their treatment is beneficial to them and reduces the risk of miscommunication.

#6- End the Consent Form for Sports Massage with the Client’s Agreement and Signature

Finally, you should always end your informed consent document with the client’s signature.

Here is an example from Sask Massage Therapy of what this section could look like:

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As shown above, you should ensure that the client writes the date.

You may wish to have a witness present whilst the form is signed, who can verify that both you and the client give your consent.

This part of the document is essential, as it confirms that they have read the form and that they provide their consent to everything that you have discussed within the form.

It also offers legal protection for you as the therapist, as you have evidence that the client was made aware of what to expect during their session.

Full Sports Massage Consent Form Template

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If you are unsure of how to integrate all of the sections above into your form, below is a sports massage consent form template below that you can use.

However, this is just an example. You should therefore ensure that yours is specific as possible to the sports massage services you provide. 

The purpose of the sports massage therapy services provided by (Name of business) is to conduct a thorough examination and diagnosis, before creating a comprehensive treatment plan tailored to your specific needs.

Depending on the diagnosis, the treatment will involve a range of techniques which will be explained thoroughly before treatment begins. I hereby give my consent to the treatment that will be provided.

Although there are several benefits to sports massage therapy, I understand that these are not guaranteed. I also recognise that I may experience adverse side effects to my treatment, which include but are not limited to:

  • Muscle soreness
  • Bruising
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Erythema
  • Dizziness
  • Skin rash

I have disclosed a full medical history to the therapist, including any medical conditions which may affect my treatment.

I agree that if I experience pain or discomfort at any point during the treatment, I will ask the therapist to alter the massage techniques that they are using.

I understand that I can stop the treatment at any point if I have any concerns at all.

I understand that I have the right to a full explanation of the benefits and risks of the treatment that I will undergo. I also have the right to decline any part of the treatment or ask for further explanation before treatment commences.

I declare that I have read and understood the contents of this form. I have been given the opportunity to ask questions regarding my treatment and understand the risks associated with the treatment.

I agree to fully cooperate with the policies and procedures of (Name of business) and am aware that my consent can be withdrawn at any time.

Client Name (Printed) ________________

Client Signature _____________________

Witness Signature ___________________

Date ______________________________

Before You Go!

You should now understand the importance of informed consent in sports massage and should be ready to start creating a form for your SMT business.

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About the Author: Rebecca Felton

rebecca felton origym authour
Graduating from the University of Liverpool with a first-class degree in English, Rebecca’s combined passions for fitness and writing are what brought her to OriGym. Rebecca is a keen gym-goer and specifically enjoys lifting weights. Outside of fitness and writing, Rebecca enjoys cooking, reading, and watching the football.

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