Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : May 17th 2013 Contents A66
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Friday, May 17, 2013
Sometimes athletes are seen wearing a brace or
some sort of supportive strapping whether around
the ankle, knee, wrist or shoulder.
Braces are used as a source of additional support
when the anatomical structures have been compro-
mised. In other words, the ligaments, tendons or
muscles have been injured in some way.
It is a perfectly legitimate way of helping oneself
get through an injury while not having to miss a
training session or competition.
To think that this is all there is to it, however, is
to tell on one s own limited knowledge in this area
of injury management.
When an athlete complains repeatedly about a
pain they are experiencing, a coach should feel a
sense of obligation to encourage the athlete to have
it addressed, not pretend like this is a normal occur-
rence in the sport and that it will pass. Unfortunately,
in 2013 there are still coaches who operate in this
fashion and too often parents say nothing despite
the obvious truth. Meanwhile, the athlete ends up
So here is a little more insight on the truth about
braces, just to help you keep it in perspective. While
braces are useful, and I have recommended them in
injury management, I am very careful about when
and how it is used.
The bottom line is, when overused, the body s
progress through healing can be affected negatively.
Particularly through the acute phase, braces can
sometimes serve a significant purpose.
Other times, the athlete is not fully recovered but
has commenced his/her gradual return to full par-
ticipation in training and/or competition. In the
former case, they serve to limit and gradually reduce
inflammation through its support. In the latter case,
a brace helps the body meet the physical demands
of dynamic movement and/or collisions as needed
in any sport.
In both cases, however, if not properly applied,
they can hinder the athlete s full recovery.
Braces tend to limit the joint s range of motion.
If kept on for too long during the first and into the
second phases of healing, this joint can become very
The truth about those braces
stiff, which can lead to some tissue adhesion and
this can affect recovery time.
If in the recovery stages the brace is used too
much, the mental and physical dependency can
develop. The athlete becomes so accustomed to
having the brace that they think they cannot perform
as well without it. The physical dependency comes
in because the muscles are not being trained to
handle the full load of the body s weight, neither
the challenges being placed on the muscles or joint
thanks to the assistance of the brace. Ironically, while
the athlete thinks that he is helping to make the
joint more reliable, the reality of the situation is that
the joint is being made structurally weaker with lim-
While I was at university, I remember a lesson I
learned from the decision of another trainer working
with our women s volleyball team. In an effort to
prevent injury, a rule was enforced that all the ladies
on the team had to have their ankle taped prior to
training and competition.
This came after the setter and captain of the team
was badly injured at the net, coming down on an
opponent s ankle, a very common injury inherent
to that sport. It was only a few weeks before the
conference finals, for which Troy State University
seemed headed towards. Her participation was impor-
tant to the team s success. She rehabilitated aggres-
sively, successfully managing to play by the time the
finals came, albeit with a taped up ankle. It was an
impressive display of persistence and commitment.
Unfortunately, the well-intentioned rule that fol-
lowed did not benefit all. Some of the other top ath-
letes, in complying with the team rules, actually had
their ankles---that had never caused them any prob-
lems prior---weaken on them.
One athlete in particular, who ended up doing a
stint in professional volleyball, told me that if she
played without taping her ankles, she could feel her
ankles fatigue and eventually ache her.
So, listen up coaches. If you have an athlete per-
petually wearing a brace, encourage them to get
checked out by a sports physician. If they were wear-
ing some sort of supportive taping or
strapping and no longer feel the need
for it having become pain-free, con-
sider going with it, observing whether
the athlete continues to improve in
their overall performance but remain
As a rule of thumb though, leave
any consultation about braces, taping
and strapping of any sort for the ath-
letic therapists to advise on.
Asha De Freitas-Moseley is a cer-
tified athletic trainer with the Na-
tional Athletic Trainers' Associa-
tion of the USA. She has over ten
years of experience in athlete and
active population rehabilitation.
She can be reached at #17 Henry
Pierre St., St. James. Tel: 221-2437
Athletes become so accustomed to having the brace
that they think they cannot perform well without it.
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