Bracing for Action: How Do Shoulder Braces Help Athletes?

Bracing for Action: How Do Shoulder Braces Help Athletes?

The shoulder is the most moveable joint in your body, allowing you to do everything from swing a golf club to swim the butterfly stroke.

Unfortunately, this incredible range of motion comes with its own risks. The shoulder is a frequent area of injury for athletes, especially those whose activities require repetitive use of the joint, such as basketball, volleyball, swimming, and weightlifting.

Because shoulder problems can develop over time, some athletes become accustomed to the pain and “play through” it. This only worsens the condition, and can even lead to more problems, including back and neck pain.

How can you protect an aching shoulder while still doing the activities you love? A shoulder brace may be the answer. It’s a simple, non-surgical method to stabilize and protect the joint during sports and other activities.

What are Common Shoulder Injuries in Sports?

The shoulder is made up of two main joints: the glenohumeral joint, where the arm bone and shoulder blade connect; and the acromioclavicular (AC) joint, where the collarbone and part of the shoulder blade connect.

Most injuries don’t involve the shoulder bones, but instead the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Common shoulder injuries in sports include:

Rotator cuff injuries

The rotator cuff is a small but important group of muscles and tendons that stabilize the shoulder. This is the site of the most common shoulder injuries in sports, with muscle or tendons tears frequently affecting swimmers, baseball players, and tennis players. Symptoms include a dull ache deep in the shoulder and arm weakness.

Dislocated shoulder

This occurs when the top of your arm bone pops out of your shoulder socket (in the glenohumeral joint). A severely dislocated shoulder may cause tissue and nerve damage around the shoulder. Symptoms include intense pain and a visibly out-of-place or deformed shoulder.

AC joint injuries

The most common of these is the separated shoulder, during which the ligaments that connect your collarbone to your shoulder blade are stretched or even ruptured, usually as the result of a blow or fall. Symptoms include shoulder pain, weakness, bruising, or swelling.

Bursitis

Caused by irritation of the bursae—small fluid-filled sacs that reduce friction between bones, tendons, joints, and muscles—shoulder bursitis occurs when there is inflammation between the tip of the shoulder and the top of the arm bone. Pain and severe loss of motion in the shoulder are common symptoms.

Why Use a Shoulder Brace?

Any athlete who is recovering from an injury—or desperately trying to avoid one—understands the risks of training or competing.

While many doctors recommend rest and ice as the first treatment for a sore shoulder, this isn’t a long-term remedy for an active person. In addition to losing training time, you risk developing stiffness from prolonged immobilization.

Shoulder braces can be worn to recover from a shoulder injury or to reduce discomfort. They range from ultra-durable slings that greatly restrict your range of motion to lightweight neoprene vests that protect your AC joint.

As the technology has advanced over the years, most shoulder brace materials are light and breathable, with easily adjustable straps.

A shoulder brace can help:

  • Speed up the recovery process

  • Protect your shoulder from further injury

  • Provide compression, which may enhance the receptors in your skin and help your brain better understand the position of your shoulder

A shoulder brace can help you during multiple stages in the rehabilitation process.

After you’ve been injured, a shoulder brace can be used to support and protect your shoulder during the healing process. Some braces compress swollen joints, helping to ease inflammation. A brace allows your injured muscles to take a break, virtually eliminating the possibility of your overdoing it.

As your rehab progresses, a shoulder brace can be used to increase “proprioception”—your sense of how your body is positioned. (Quick proprioception test: Close your eyes. Can you successfully touch your nose?)

People who suffer from a full or partial shoulder dislocation have decreased proprioception, and studies show that shoulder braces can improve it.

Some shoulder braces can help your overall posture and protect your shoulder joints as you slowly start training again.

Get Fitted for a Brace Right Away

Finding the right shoulder brace can be trial and error. Some online retailers offer one-size-fits-all models, and clinics may require a few visits for fittings.

At Flexogenix, we provide customized braces in a single visit. Contact us today for a consultation.

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† While we are in network for most major insurance carriers we have some treatment programs that are not recognized or covered by many insurance carriers.