Sports Injuries and the Use of Braces

There are two basic types of sports injury, overuse injuries and traumatic injuries. Fairly obviously, overuse relates to wear and tear over a period of time and will result in damage to the body that begins to hurt. Achilles tendonitis is a classic example of this where pain begins to occur in the lower back of the leg. A traumatic injury is a sudden one, like a muscle pull or tear that happens without warning.Traumatic injuries - Ankles.

One of the most common sports injuries is the ankle sprain, which can be either an inversion or eversion injury. Inversion is much more common due to the relative weakness of the lateral ligaments. Where eversion does occur, damage to the stronger medial ligament will usually take longer to repair.There are three basic types of ankle brace available, and the most effective in the prevention of this type of injury is the semi-rigid hinged brace. Unfortunately this brace is not ideal for wearing while playing sports as it will impair mobility and movement. The least effective is the heat retaining neoprene type brace which although keeping the ankle warm will not prevent sprains.

The brace best suited to players is the laced type, which does offer a good level of protection, particularly from inversion.Knees.Knee injuries are often the most serious that sports players can suffer. Small tears in the ligaments or meniscus can heal by themselves with the proper treatment, though arthroscopic surgery is still sometimes required.

Major tears, such as damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) will often require surgery for sports participators, though a damaged medial collateral ligament (MCL) will heal itself.Again, hinged braces with rigid metal supports provide most protection, particularly to the medial and lateral ligaments. Unfortunately no brace can prevent ACL injury as this can occur with just a very slight twist of the knee, but a hinged brace will assist with recovery from the injury. These hinged braces are not suitable for wear while playing sports. More suitable are stabilized knee supports, secured by straps, which are slightly less effective, but are not so restrictive and will not cause injury to other players. Neoprene knee supports will only offer moderate protection from the common injuries, but if the requirement is to keep the knee joint warm to assist mobility, then these will suffice.

Wrists.Like the ankle, the wrist can easily be sprained, most commonly in a fall for sports players. The damage can vary from a micro-tear to a severe or even complete tear of the ligament tissue.

Wearing a wrist brace won't stop you from taking a fall or suffering a sprain as a result. If you have sprained your wrist, a brace may assist with recovery and possibly from recurrence of the injury when you start playing again. It's no good wearing a wrist brace that is little more than a sweat band; you need to find one that is firm and that will give you confidence that it will help you prevent traumatic injury again. The best ones are those which fit over the lower part of the hand as well as the wrist, offering support for the whole joint.Overuse injuries.Sports players may also suffer from various overuse injuries associated with the sport.

Typical ones which may be alleviated by wearing a brace are Achilles tendonitis (ankle area), patellar tendonitis (knee) and carpal tunnel syndrome (wrist). With this type of injury, the damage is already done and it's more a case of damage limitation. You should also be aware that often a weakness in one overused joint can put more stress and strain on another, so making you more vulnerable to further injury.

Some injuries, such as ITB tendonitis (leg), and shoulder tendon (rotator cuff) damage cannot really be alleviated by wearing braces as it is much harder to address the cause of the problem by applying support.The advice is much the same as for traumatic injury if you're going to continue to play with an overuse injury, though bear in mind that you may now always have to play with some kind of support. Finding a firm but comfortable brace that protects the whole joint is essential.

Laced or strapped braces are preferable to 'slip on' or elasticated ones as you can adjust the firmness of support to your own requirements.As with all medical issues, please do not buy braces 'off the shelf' without first consulting a doctor or specialist. It is essential that you understand the nature and requirements of your injury before attempting to treat it with the use of artificial support. If you do wear a brace, be sure to wear it in the correct way ? a badly placed brace can actually do more harm than good. The same applies to a brace which is worn out ? if it no longer fits properly, don't wear it.

.John Webber is the editor for http://www.sports-medicine-shop.

com - a website specialising in sports supports information and articles on sports braces.

By: John Webber


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