Injury prevention is important for any athlete at any stage of their training, but it is especially important in the lead up to crucial qualifying events and trials. Whether it’s a slight adjustment in the training routine, or just sheer misfortune, the little amount of time available for recovery means even a slight tweak can set your goals back a couple years. We’re not saying athletes are incapable of battling through these conditions, but obviously, it’s better to be able to focus on the task at hand without worrying about a decrease in performance. Thus, we would like to highlight one technique that many athletes use in order to reduce their risk of injury as much as possible.
During the later stages of training, it’s very important for athletes to be able to feel confident about their performance, so it’s ideal not to employ any methods that will limit performance during training. When people think of orthopedic braces, they often think of the heavy-duty post-surgery braces. These are certainly a common type of brace; however, many advancements have been made to provide athletes with an option to wear braces during their normal training.
For example, complicated joints like the shoulder joint are especially prone to injury, both nagging and traumatic injuries alike. However, clever designs and advanced materials have now allowed many athletes to wear thin, yet supportive, shoulder braces that are especially useful in weight training regimes, particularly if the athlete has a history of injuries.
Similarly, thin sleeves that provide compression to joints offer a comfortable way to add a tiny bit of added support. These ones won’t totally prevent unwanted excessive joint movements, but the little bit of added stability, however minimal, can be the difference between a slight tweak and something that keeps an athlete of their feet.
With this in mind, we must encourage practicing caution when it comes to bracing techniques. While they serve their purpose well and many athletes have benefited dramatically from these types of solutions, it’s best to avoid becoming too reliant on these devices, particularly the ones that offer a good level of added support and stability. If the muscles surrounding a joint experience a reduction in their activity, even small levels of activity, the coordination and strength of these muscles can become compromised through atrophy and decreased neuromuscular coordination.
The answer? Simply wear the brace when you think you need it most. Maybe this involves only wearing a brace during weight-bearing activities leading up to an event, only after coming back from an injury, or simply the odd time that pain is involved. Regardless, as long as the potential negatives and positives are balanced and considered thoroughly, chances are an effective injury prevention plan can be put in place that incorporates the use of braces.
In an ideal world, everyone at the trials will put up their personal best! At the end of the day, a little bit of luck is often involved, and we wish you all the best in reaching your goals. See you at the Olympics!