01 Sep Using Braces to Prevent Sports Injuries
If you’ve ever had a sports injury, you may have worn a brace during your recovery. Bracing also has a role in prevention. Today, many trainers and sports physiotherapists recommend bracing to reduce ankle sprains and other common sports injuries. Here’s why bracing can be a big help.
What Is a Brace?
A brace is an external device you attach to your joint. Its purpose is to restrict movement, which helps keep the joint stable. A brace keeps you from moving the injured part of your ligament or muscle.
Braces are made of various materials, including metal, plastic, leather, and cloth. Some braces are made from neoprene, which is very flexible. The most innovative braces are thermoplastic. They’re lightweight and designed to mold to the body for a perfect fit.
Is Bracing the Same as Taping?
Taping involves using thin splints and tape to hold a joint firm. Bracing and taping serve similar functions in athletics. Some sports therapists use rigid tape to immobilize joints during games or rehabilitation. There are some key differences, however.
• Braces are reusable, but tape must be reapplied every day.
• You can put on a brace yourself, but tape must be applied by someone else.
• Tape may be painful to remove, while braces are easy to take on and off.
• Braces provide a custom fit that makes them more effective than tapes.
How Well Does Bracing Work?
No brace can prevent every injury, but studies have found that ankle braces can reduce the risk of recurrent ankle sprains. Most braces are worn on the ankles for this reason. At one time, braces were thought to increase knee injuries, but that is not the case.
Do Braces Impair Performance?
Ankle and foot braces restrict motion, but they don’t block it. You can still move your foot and ankle, but you won’t move the part that is injured or weak. A well-fitted brace will not impede your flexibility or performance.
Are Braces Only for Ankles?
While ankle braces are the most common, many sports physiotherapists also recommend the use of knee braces. A knee brace is especially useful if you’re recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. An ACL is a painful, debilitating condition that causes pain and swelling in the knee. Wearing a brace can help in the recovery process. It can also help an athlete feel safer while playing after a knee injury.
Are There Downsides to Bracing During Sports?
Braces can have many benefits, but it’s important to remember that they have limitations.
• Wearing a brace cannot replace a complete rehabilitation plan.
• Using one too often can cause dependence on the brace for support, which leads to muscle weakness or uneven gait.
• Braces cannot compensate for muscle loss.
Brace Yourself for Fun on the Field
If you are a coach, trainer, or player who’s interested in using braces to prevent sports injuries, contact Shuman Podiatry & Sports Medicine. We create custom braces that help you stay safe while playing any sport.