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Physical therapy: streamlined sports medicine products for the ailing athlete.

In the business of sports medicine, where the technology of sporting goods and medical products are combined for a singular purpose, the trend is towards more lighter, mobile, and streamlined innovations. Companies are looking to provide athletes with comfort and convenience, in addition to piece of mind.

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"From the medical market, you have to have something that is going to protect you or stabilize your injury," said Bob McDavid, president of McDavid Sports Medical Products. "On the team side, you must have something that's mobile, otherwise you can't play. That's what sports medicine is. It's taking a brace and compromising on the rigidity and support nature of it to the point that it is applicable for an athlete to play with the product without doing further damage, while being able to provide mobility.

"I often draw this analogy: If you look at an ankle brace and you say, 'What's the best way to prevent someone from injuring an ankle again or support the ankle injury he has?' Well, the best way is to put him in a cast because you cannot move or twist your ankle. Conversely, you cannot play football, basketball, or any sport in a cast. So you have to make a mobile cast. Then you start taking steps toward the middle, between the two extremes. The other extreme would be a sock. If you put a sock on and call it an ankle brace you are not going to have any support but you will have maximum mobility."

That said, companies such as McDavid, Mueller Sports Medicine, and Cramer Sports Medicine have introduced a plethora of new sports medicine items that fit the bill.

Additionally, companies such as OPTP, which sells rehabilitation and fitness-related products, are offering products that build the core muscles of the body to help alleviate problems in the future, while enhancing performance.

From hinged knee braces to revolutionary moisture-wicking braces and wraps to convenient sports rub products and foam rollers, aches and pains never felt so good.

McDavid's Ankle X is a revolutionary new protective ankle brace that offers a high level of protection and comfort for athletes of all ages, according to the company. With a pivot hinge and lightweight design, the Ankle X does not restrict maneuverability and can be worn for hours. It can also be worn to treat and prevent all ankle injuries, including high ankle sprains.

The McDavid Multi-Action Knee Strap helps relieve pain from runner's or jumper's knee and non-specific patellar pain. With adjustable buttresses and Velcro[R] closures, the Multi-Action Knee Strap is also ideal in assisting patellar tracking. McDavid's Achilles Tendon Strap features a buttress over the Achilles tendon for maximum pain relief. The strap fits comfortably over the right or left foot and stays in place.

"The Achilles Tendon Strap and the Multi-Action Knee Strap are things that we have had in mind for a while," Bob McDavid said. "We've had a demand for an Achilles strap and a knee strap with buttresses that could move around on different areas of the knee. The Ankle X is a further development of our Ultra Ankle."

McDavid added: "It's our job to find something that falls in between that maximizes both the supported value and the protected value of the brace or product, and the mobility, so the athlete can participate."

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Mueller has been busy on a couple of fronts. The company's innovative Elbow and Knee Pad with Kevlar[R] offer maximum protection from shocks and bumps while providing compression, yet are lightweight and non-restricting. The thick inner foam pad delivers superior protection, according to the company, while the outer covering is made with Kevlar[R] fibers for long-lasting durability.

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However, it is Mueller's Hg80[R] series, according to Rick Olson, the company's national sporting goods sales manager, that is "the buzz around the sporting goods world right now."

Launched at the National Athletic Trainers' Association (NATA) Annual Meeting and Clinical Symposia in June, the Hg80[R] product line is the first of its kind that is non-neoprene and latex-free. Constructed of a Mueller-exclusive fabric called HydraCinn[TM], which is the moisture-wicking catalyst behind the Hg80[R] heat management system, it provides a permanently bonded antimicrobial barrier to protect against odor causing bacteria, fungus, and other microorganisms.

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Until now, moisture management was only available in sports apparel--Nike's Dri-FIT line and Under Armour being the most prevalent.

"There is nothing else on the market or that is being launched that has hinges or wraps around a knee, ankle, or wrist, that is not a neoprene product," said Olson.

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The Hg80[R] series includes: The Knee Brace, Hinged Knee Brace, Knee Stabilizer, Rigid Ankle Brace, Adjust-To-Fit Ankle Brace, Tennis Elbow Brace, and Wrist Brace.

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"Athletes say it is so comfortable and lightweight that it feels like they are not wearing anything," Olson said. "That is best thing you can hear. These people do not want to wear an ankle brace or a knee brace because it will hinder their performance. But they now can feel more comfortable knowing that they are wearing something that will protect them."

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Cramer's Chameleon Ankle Brace is a more streamlined version of its popular Active Ankle Brace that has a host of new features. The hinge has been upgraded to be more durable, but the neatest feature is the eight interchangeable colored plastic plates.

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"We've upgraded it feature-wise and cosmetically," said Ed Christman, VP/marketing for Cramer. "There has been a huge interest in a lot of sports, particularly volleyball, due to the ability to change colors. It's a prominent style for the players. For young athletes who are looking for protection, they like the added benefit of color."

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Cramer will introduce two new products, available Jan. 1, 2006, designed to meet the need for consumer convenience. The first is Skin Lube, a glide stick designed to help combat friction and minimize chafing and rubbing. The second is Sports Rub, a warm topical roll-on analgesic designed to soothe mild muscle aches and strains.

The roll-on and stick are two new ways of applying existing Cramer products, having previously been available in tubes and buckets.

"We're promoting convenience and ease of application," Christman said. "They're designed for ease of use and travel. I think the athletes are looking for that individual type of application. And without a mess, because they don't have to apply it with their hands."

Both Mueller and Cramer have introduced a new pink under-wrap that is targeted to female athletes to use either on the body or in the hair.

OPTP's AXIS Rollers and Core Challenge Roller are the perfect complement to a core training-based rehab environment. Since they're deemed to be dynamic surfaces, they're unstable. And when performing different exercises on them, they allow the athlete or rehab patient to strengthen, tone, and work muscles they have never worked before.

Said Jeff Polley, copywriter for OPTP: "In terms of student-athletes, what we're looking to promote is basically a greater understanding of how the body works together, so to speak. There are a lot of buzz words in the rehab and fitness industry right now, one of them being core stability."

The AXIS foam roller (available in several sizes) is cylindrical in shape, lightweight, and is made of long-lasting durable foam. Furthermore, it will not lose its shape after moderate to heavy use. The Core Challenge Roller combines the essential properties of exercise balls and rollers into a dynamic inflatable fitness roll designed for the entire body.

"Core training focuses on a rehab setting. It's aimed at getting you back on the field faster, to expedite the whole rehabilitation process. It's designed to help your body react better. Training on an unstable surface increases your balance, increases all sorts of awareness, and that will all translate when it comes to game time."
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Title Annotation:FACILITY FOCUS
Author:Newell, Kevin
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2005
Words:1320
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