Louise Ramsay reports
The high impact nature of most sports creates a need for support and joint stabilisation in participants.
As people age, added support becomes even more essential and often medical professionals will refer patients suffering from orthopaedic pain and injury to their local sports retailer for product solutions.
External support system
Darren Alger, operations director at ING Source, which distributes OS1st support products, says: “The idea behind sports supports is to create an external support system that aids anatomy to meet the athlete’s demands and prevent damage from overuse or injury.
“There isn’t a sport that doesn’t benefit from utilising supports and bracing. The trend isn’t so much sport specific as it is utilisation specific, with the growth in prevention and prehab applications. More athletes are interested in supports that help prevent injury and speed recovery and young athletes in particular have embraced the concept of compression and wear it frequently.
“There are many chronic and all-too-common conditions that athletes are likely to deal with over time. In addition to plantar fasciitis in the foot, shin splints, Achilles tendinitis and leg cramps are very often identified as recurring issues in the foot and leg. Knee pain and patellar tracking issues are also common, along with hamstring and quadricep muscle damage.”
There are two types of support, as Chris Lord, brand manager at Shock Doctor, explains: “Broadly speaking, neoprene supports focus on therapeutic benefits and warmth. These are based on compression oriented designs and offer light support for minor pain, sprains and strains, allowing for daily use for an extended period of time.
“The other style of products available benefit the athlete with all the therapeutic and support characteristics inherent to neoprene compression based products, but provide stability and support through more advanced designs and integrated support features such as metal braces and hinges.
“These products offer medium to high stability and are targeted for moderate to major ligament sprains, muscle strains and unstable joints, allowing for use as necessary when competing or for recovery.”
Getting the fit right
Given that different injuries require different supports, knowing how and what to fit is an important service for retailers to offer.
Barry Martin, marketing manager at 2pure, says: “Retailers can help consumers choose the right product, in the correct size and demonstrate proper, comfortable installation. The risk of a poorly fitted product can be quite serious. In the case of a poorly applied ankle support, the wearer could experience an inversion sprain - or worse still, a repeat inversion sprain.”
Alger concurs: “True medical grade sports compression and supports are not a one-size-fits-many product. We offer a wide range of sizes because the nature of our bracing sleeves requires a proper fit to receive accurate support, as dictated by the anatomy of the wearer.
“It’s important retailers understand the technology behind sports medical products that have an effect on joints, tendons and circulation. There are a lot of products hitting the market that claim to offer proper compression and support, when in fact they are ineffective at least and potentially hazardous at worst. ING Source offers materials and training to help retailers serve as a subject matter expert and information resource for their customers.”
It goes without saying that sports supports make for good products for retailers to stock.
“To stay competitive and remain an important resource for athletes and active people, retailers can differentiate themselves by offering products that effectively solve common injuries and conditions,” Alger says.
“Any time a retailer can solve a pain related problem for their customer, it builds loyalty and trust. It is a natural extension of the retailer-customer relationship, which allows the retailer to upsell customers with problem solving products that improve their performance or help with pain relief.
“By simply asking the customer if they’re dealing with any pain issues or injury problems or want to prevent injury during activity, the opportunity is there to be of assistance and actively demonstrate a retailer’s core mission to help customers and drive more revenue for increased profit margin.”