In our second article on proprioception we cover the effects of proprioception on sports injury, in particular considering overhead athletes. Check out our first article on proprioception and sports performance here.
Shoulder Injury in the Athletic Population
Shoulder pain is a common and disabling complaint, particularly amongst overhead athletes, often as a result of repetitive stress during sporting actions. In fact, according to a series of published population surveys, shoulder pain affects 18-26% of adults at any time, making it one of the most common pain syndromes.
Three extremely common shoulder injuries amongst athletes are SLAP tears to the ring of cartilage around the shoulder socket; instability due to reduced tendon & ligament function, often leading to subluxation or dislocation; and rotator cuff muscle injuries. Generally, these are caused by repetitive overhead motions or high impacts, and are typically characterised by pain, weakness, and reduced shoulder function.
One of the primary features of the Exosuit concept is that it was specifically designed to aid athletes with upper body and shoulder proprioception. As we know from our previous article, proprioceptive skill has a potentially huge effect on performance. Whenever we perform a task, we rely on our senses (including proprioception) to coordinate our movements. A sportsperson has to quickly perform incredibly complex movements and (consciously or unconsciously) relies on proprioception in order adapt and optimise their performance to the situation unfolding in front of them. In general, the more heightened the athlete’s proprioceptive abilities, the better that athlete will perform.
Proprioception and Sports Injury Prevention
As it turns out, research also shows that improved neuromuscular function can actually be an aid to injury prevention alongside performance. Proprioceptive training has been explicitly linked to reductions in knee, ankle, and overall injuries amongst athletes, particularly amongst populations with a history of injury in that area. Any damage to a joint, ligament, or tendon also damages the proprioceptors in that area, impairing the quality of information relayed to the brain. Studies in US collegiate baseball found proprioceptive defects to be a significant mechanism for shoulder instability amongst pitchers, and that shoulder pain was linked with reduced proprioceptive sensation in that area. Clearly proprioception has a significant role to play in both injury prevention and rehab.
Exosuit is bringing science and function to sports apparel in a way that redefines the industry. Injuries are not always preventable. However, acute awareness of body position and motion can help reduce the risks of sustaining an injury. That’s where Exosuit is focusing its research and development – apparel that is specifically designed to interact with the body to enhance the proprioceptive sensation and awareness, consequently assisting in performance and injury prevention.