When recovering from an injury, or returning to play, adding extra stability to a “weaker” area can give an athlete (or your average Jo) a higher level of confidence whilst preventing excessive movement and putting an area at risk.
Although braces are frequently used across Australia, particularly in sports like Netball, let’s take a closer look at how useful they really are for the long term.
Why do people choose to use a brace?
In one word, stability. The brace mimics the job the ligaments, tendons and muscles should be doing – keeping the joint in line for movement. Sometimes excessive movement particularly around joints can cause damage to the ligaments, tendons and surrounding muscles making them more “stretchy” than they should be. Unfortunately, these areas often take a long time to heal so many athletes choose to prevent excessive movement by using a brace. Braces are also extremely time and cost efficient, it is a lot easier to simply strap a brace on, rather than spend time (and money) being taped for every training session and game.
Why should I think twice before using one?
Although braces are a fantastic short term support, using them long term can prevent movement in the joint. This means that the joint doesn’t have an opportunity to become stable by itself and be able to withstand the movements required in the day to day. This can actually increase the chance of injury for the athlete, and cause them to become “over confident” with their movements. This can mean the day they forget the brace, or decide not to use it, injury is very possible as the joint is able to move well out of the usual restraints the brace provides.
How can my physiotherapist help?
Your physiotherapist is an important partner when deciding to use a brace. They can make recommendations about the particular type to best suit you, and specific time/exercise cycles to use it for. Your physiotherapist will also provide you with exercises so that the brace is not a long term solution (if it isn’t necessary). They will give you strengthening and mobility exercises that relate specifically to your sport to ensure your body is ready to perform at its best.