Padding, taping and bracing sports injuries : Sports Injury Prevention

Factors taken into consideration when deciding on padded sportswear, taping a limb or wearing a joint brace, depends on the likelihood of physical trauma during exercise, the contact level of the sport, if the injury is new or recurring, and the location and extent of the wound. Padding, taping and bracing are some of the options available to athletes for protecting their bodies from injury. Trained sports professionals can best advise on pads, tapes and braces, or devices such as straps, splints, belts, guards, and slings that can help players reduce sports injury.

Padding for sports protection

Padding can be applied to sportswear, such as shoulder pads for football players or knee pads for cricket wicket keepers and roller-blade skaters. Or field equipment can be padded, like rugby goal posts. Certain sports rely on padding as part of the game, such as boxers' gloves.

Protecting the player with reinforced padded clothing is usually the priority, especially the shoulders, legs and head. Goalkeepers in rugby, football, hockey and cricket wear padded shorts to protect from groin injury. When protection is not worn, boxers can sprain and break fingers or their wrists, football players can dislocate their shoulders or fracture the collarbone, cricketers can severely damage their knee joints, and cyclists may experience brain trauma if a part padded helmet is not worn.

It's vital for players to identify what their sports padding needs are through advice from either professionally trained sports coaches or physiotherapists, prior to engaging in athletic activity that may cause injury.

Taping for sports protection

When a player injures a joint, such as an ankle sprain in athletics or elbow injury in tennis, the injured joint should be taped to limit movement, stabilise the joint and protect the trauma site from further damage. Joint soft tissue is particularly vulnerable to damage after injury. By taping, such as with zinc oxide tape, the joint is reinforced and kept in position. If joints are weak, players can tape joints prior to sport as a means of support to reduce risk of injury.

Tapes used on joints are less elastic to restrict movement, but tapes used on the muscles that stick directly to the skin, such as elastic adhesive bandages, aim to provide controlled support to movement and expand with the muscle with flex and contraction.

Compression tapes that do not stick to the skin directly are usually used after a sporting injury to treat the trauma site, and are either wrapped around the wounded limb or joint. In sports matches, such as rugby and tennis, first aid officers or paramedics, usually have such bandages on hand. Some sports coaches in athletics and boxing also keep such tapes available in the event of sports injury.

Bracing for sports protection

Braces can be worn by athletes during sport activity to reinforce muscles and joints, reducing the risk of injury. If a player has an existing injury, braces are worn as a means to prevent further injury to the knee, ankle or back.

Lower back or spinal injuries are common in certain sports, such as gymnastics and tennis where the body is rotated with joints and vertebrae under pressure as the body shifts weight. Spinal braces stabilise the back vertebrae keeping them in position and under less friction pressure, also improving posture.

Depending on the type of sport, which parts of the body are most under pressure, or where an existing injury is located, braces may be designed to stabilize ligaments and joints, such as hinged knee brace or the patella stabilizers brace. Dual action knee straps of often used to treat runner's knee.

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