There are a variety of orthopedic bracing solutions for a range of injuries and aliments that can allow you to participate in winter sports. Below are a few examples of Canada’s favourite winter past times and common injuries associated with those activities.
Medical Devices for Playing Hockey
Hockey has always been a very physically demanding sport with aggressive contact between players, rigid obstacles (boards/ goalposts), and the ice surface. There is the potential for high energy trauma on every shift out on the ice with the most common injuries occurring at the shoulder joint. Acromioclavicular (AV) joint separation, often called a shoulder separation, is an injury to the ligaments that attach the clavicle to the acromion of the shoulder blade causing a dislocation/displacement of the joint. The severity depends on which supporting structures are affected and the extent of the damage. In any event, disruption of the AC joint can result in pain and instability in both the shoulder and arm, making it difficult to return to the game.
Bracing could provide a range of benefits for an injured player looking to get back onto the ice. Bauerfiend has developed a brace that provides secure support for the shoulder and strongly promotes mobility to help restore function, while the compressive knit and gel pad massage the soft tissue during each movement. Ultimately, wearing a shoulder brace can relieve pain, activate the musculature to stabilize the joint, and provide protection against further injury. The Bauerfeind OmoTrain is designed to fit cleanly under hockey shoulder pads, so like the pain it goes unnoticed during the game.
Medical Devices for Curling
While curling is often thought of as a sport with low risk of injury, the repetitive motion and sustained posing curling requires can lead to injuries that take athletes out of the game. One study noted that out of 76 athletes at a curling tournament, 79% reported curling related musculoskeletal pain, most commonly involving the knee (54%).
Knee pain is common in the “tuck knee”, which is when the stone is being delivered due to prolonged flexion of the knee joint beyond 90 degrees. This pain felt in the front of the knee and around the kneecap is frequently diagnosed as Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS). The most common causes of the condition are overuse of the knee joint and/or kneecaps that abnormally move back and forth inside the trochlear groove of the femur. Fortunately, symptoms are often relieved with conservative treatment, such as changes in activity level, rehabilitation exercises, and supportive knee bracing.
PFPS bracing features a fixed tubular buttress that applies pressure to the unstable kneecap which encourages the patella to stay aligned and glide properly along the groove. Breg offers a range of different braces designed specifically to treat Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome to allow the athlete to focus on the game and not the pain.
Medical Devices for Skiing and Snowboarding
Tens of thousands of skiers and snowboarders enjoy snow sports every year; however, few prepare for the rigorous physical demands that these sports place on the body. Many injuries can be prevented by proper physical preparation, and properly adjusted equipment.
The most common skiing injuries occur in the knee. Knee sprains happen when a ligaments integrity is tested beyond its limit which could be a result of straining, tearing or over-stretching. The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) are some of the most at-risk areas of the knee joint for tears while skiing. The ACL role is to control tibia translation, meaning the tibia does not slide forward away from the femur. On the other hand, the MCL connects the tibia to the femur on the medial (inside) of the joint and is responsible for resisting the knee from bending inward. The ACL is subject to harm in any sport that involves fast speeds and rapid manoeuvring especially in skiing where torque-type movements are the basis of every technique. Ultimately, both ligaments can be injured when threatened by an intense pressure at an unnatural angle placed on the leg when left unprotected. Those are the cases when a brace could really benefit an athlete while they tackle the slopes.
There are two possible options when selecting a brace for skiing, there is Off the Shelf style braces like the Breg Shortrunner or a custom knee brace depending on the participant’s past injury history. Any ACL or MCL strains would benefit from the control and stability the Shortrunner provides. If the injury history includes either an ACL or MCL tear, then the participant would require a more rigid support both medial and laterally, and benefit from the distinctive dynamic hinge. The unique hinge delivers a progressive counterforce to the lower leg to reduce tibial translation in patients with ligament deficiencies or recovering from ligament reconstruction. In order to best suit the athletes requiring this kind of bracing, Breg designed a shorter custom brace to ensure it fits nicely with ski boots. If you have any concerns or questions regarding which brace would suit your needs and skiing style, then reach out to your closest Bracing Specialist for a professional opinion.
Snowboarding, on the other hand, differs from downhill skiing in many aspects. The most important difference is that snowboarders ride with both feet affixed by non-releasable bindings to a single board. Snowboarders also stand perpendicular to the long axis of the board thus protecting the knees from any twisting forces. These differences combined with the evolving design/development of snowboard boots over the past years has resulted in lower extremity injuries affecting the knee to become less common to snowboarders when compared to skiers. Instead, ankle joints are the area of most concern for snowboarders as they are more vulnerable to ankle sprains and fractures. In fact, a lateral fracture of the talus is referred to as “snowboarder’s ankle”, as it is rarely sustained in any other way. Injuries resulting in ligament strains or fractures require rehabilitation exercise and transition back into activity. The Hinged Wraptor Ankle brace accommodates that recovery process with a removable hinge system that supports the patient’s progression from acute injury to back on the slopes. The brace would easily fit into any snowboard boot to provide increased stability and support so your time on the mountain is that much more enjoyable!
Medical Devices for Fat Biking
Fat bikes represent a technological advancement in mountain bike design that has allowed bike enthusiasts to expand their activities to new terrain particularly in the winter months on snowy trail. The bikes wide frame, and deeply treaded tires have gained substantial popularity over the last 5 years. While snow biking gains traction as an enjoyable recreational activity so does the prevalence of injuries, most commonly to the wrist and hands.
A frequent cycling condition that causes participants to suffer from pain and numbness throughout their wrist and hands is Ulnar Neuropathy or what has been coined as Handlebar Palsy. This occurs when the ulnar nerve is compressed leading to pain, numbness and tingling in the ring and little finger often causing the hand to feel weak, making it hard to brake or change gears. Compression of the median nerve can also result in numbness and tingling in the thumb, index, and middle finger and are symptoms of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. CTS is a cumulative condition that can become inflamed by handlebar positions that force the wrist joint to endure unnatural angles, and excessive pressure when riding on the bar tops.
Once a rider begins to experience symptoms related to ulnar or medial compression it is important to be proactive to prevent the inflammation from accumulating. The best preventative method is to wear a hand and wrist brace or splint that limits additional movements from occurring at the wrist joint before taking off on the trails. By restricting the amount of flexion/ extension at the joint and stabilizing the wrist in neutral position minimizes the pressure on the nerves traveling through the carpal tunnel.
Wearing a brace, whether it is for pain management or prevention, has a positive impact on both riding pleasure and performance! Please contact us if you have any questions about bracing for winter sport activities.