Fibers and Sports Injuries
Opinion article by Paulo Mourão – Fitness Coach of Sport Lisboa e Benfica
“Citius, Altius and Fortius”
When in 1894, during the creation of the International Olympic Committee, Baron Pierre de Cobertin proposed this simple motto for the Olympic Games, he certainly did not expect the impact that such phrase originated in World Sport. The fact is that any athlete aims to be the “fastest” [Citius], the “highest” [Altius] and the “strongest” [Fortius], overcoming his own capabilities. In any sporting event, to be “Citius, Altius and Fortius” represents achieving victory, winning a medal or, ultimately, the hit of a record.
In order to achieve the much desired goal, the most obvious way is through the increseament of performance, using, among other strategies, the training. Yet another way to achieve this is the usage of technology developments, particularly by using equipment and sports clothing designed specifically for this function. This type of equipment composed of fibrous materials offers a number of features such as weight reduction, mechanical optimization, increased elasticity, decreased friction and comfort, allowing among others, thermoregulation, breathability and, more recently, monitoring vital signs (heart rate, body temperature, etc.). For example, we now know that the development of construction materials for bicycles has led to an increased performance in the order of 220% over the last 102 years, 101% of these is attributed to aerodynamic improvements. Also, the famous “swimsuits”, mediated by American swimmer Michael Phelps, are a good example of the use of these materials to improve performances, in this case, not only through friction reduction, but above all by compression the same power in the lower and upper limbs.
However, these technological improvements associated with the disproportionate increase in the training process, as well as the increase in competitive times, are an increased injury risk factor, that ofen results in the so unwanted sports injury. In fact, science currently shows us that the higher the training load, the higher the risk of injury. Based on this, injury prevention has become a constant concern for all professionals involved in the training process, either by control of training loads, and/or throught the use of numerous protective equipment and prevention . It is thus easily understood the presence of technology also on preventive strategies. It is thus easily understood the presence of technology also on preventive strategies. Numerous examples can be given, such as the classic “leggings” used by football players, “helmets” used in cycling or stabilization bandages articulate, among others.
However, despite how significantly technological development has evolved regarding this protection, it has been found that the number of lesions is not decreasing, in fact, recent data show that not only it hasn’t decrease as in some kind of injurys have actually increase, representing a considerable loss for both the athlete and the team he represents.
The use of dressings and bandages to face common injuries like lacerations and sprains is a current practice, but we’ve been seeing the emergence of highly innovative materials with high levels of flexibility, strength, porosity and biocompatibility that facilitate the process of rehabilitation of the injury. At the same level, thermo-moldable orthopedic implants have been replacing traditional “plaster”, allowing the reduction of immobility and the absence time, and even increasing the comfort during the time of use.
However, taking football as an example, these injuries represent only 20% of all recorded lesions. Given the epidemiology of injury in football, we found that about 70% of injuries are muscle-tendon type and capsular-ligament. Those are highly disabling injuries, which can cause a long absence – in case of a complete rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament, the number of days absent rarely is below 180 (6 months), depending on the surgical procedure used – which represents a huge damage to the player and the team he plays for, both in terms of performance and finance issues.
Today’s challenge relates to paradigma shift, replacing the use of autologous grafts, for artificial grafts, to both ensure greater resistance, as well to shorten immobility time and lack of sport practice.