Whether you play sports at a professional level, educational level, or as a hobby body injuries are something you take a risk of. You can only avoid injuries to a certain extent when you are constantly pushing your body and keeping it in motion. In a sport like basketball, continuously moving, rotating, and extending the arm puts this area at great risk.
Using this high range of motion specifically targeting the shoulders makes shoulder injuries one of the most common injuries in the basketball world. This is where shoulder braces come into play. These braces will provide support in the healing and recovery process of many different shoulder injuries and problems players have. But how do you know what kind of shoulder brace to get that fits both your needs and budget?
Common Shoulder Injuries in Basketball
To figure out what kind of brace is best for you, it’s helpful to understand common shoulder injuries to see what they would require out of a brace.
Rotator Cuff Tendonitis
When shooting the ball, basketball players are using frequent overhead arm movements that can lead to rotator cuff tendonitis. The rotator cuff is a network of muscles and tendons that keeps the shoulder in its socket. When the rotator cuff becomes irritated due to repetitive motion, tendonitis occurs, causing pain and tenderness in the shoulder. Anti-inflammatory medication, rest, and physical therapy can help treat most mild cases. Rotator cuff tendonitis is likely to be activated while shooting a basketball.
Bursitis of the Shoulder
A bursa is a fluid-filled sac that is closed. One location of the major bursae (plural) is the shoulds. The bursa works as a surface to cushion and glide in between the tissues of the body to reduce friction. With constant and repetitive motion, the bursa can become inflamed resulting in swelling. This swelling can cause the space in the shoulder to narrow, in which the tissue and bursa pinch when the shoulder moves to result in irritation and pain. Treatment for bursitis requires inflammation reduction, which commonly is done with resting the shoulder and using ice and anti-inflammatory medications.
Rotator Cuff Tear
Rotator Cuff Tear occurs most often because of repetitive use. If a player continues to play with this tear it can go from a minor rotator cuff injury to a partial or full tear. This type or injury requires surgery. Kobe Bryant in 2015 suffered from a rotator cuff tear in which he sat out for the All-Star Game due to surgery.
Having knowledge of what these injuries are and forms of treatment will help when making a decision on a shoulder brace.
Best Shoulder Braces for Basketball
There are several factors that dictate what brace will be right for you, but before deep diving into what will help with your decision making, here’s a quick breakdown of 6 recommended shoulder braces on Amazon and their price points.
Bauerfeind OmoTrain Shoulder Brace
This shoulder brace is good for injury recovery and/or if a player is having chronic shoulder pain. The design provides a deep tissue massage for your shoulder area using your own movements which help relieve pain. The socket for your arm and shoulder is kept in place maintaining mobility and reducing pain. The fabric is moisture wicking and breathable with a sleeker fit and sizing. This all allows for good movement when the brace is on. The sleeker fit won’t provide much protection during rough playing though.
- Designed to relieve pain
- Moisture-wicking fabric that’s breathable
- Sleek look and fit is good for hiding under clothes and providing mobility
- Must measure accurately before purchasing
- Protection during rough play time will most likely be low
The Donjoy Sully Shoulder Brace
If you’re facing strains, sprains, or AC Joint injuries this universal fit shoulder brace is great. The Donjoy Sully can be for both right and left shoulders. It has a soft foam pad that precisely sits on the area that has been affected. Simultaneously, the hard shell foam will keep your AC joint protected from a recurring injury. You can only wear this product alone, you can not double up.
- Made to fit both right and left shoulder
- Hardshell provides protection from re-injury
- Bulky design does not allow for doubling products when wearing
Kuangmi Double Shoulder Support Brace Strap Wrap Neoprene Protector
Bilateral shoulder braces like the Kuangmi Double Shoulder Support Brace are your best options when you need support for both shoulders at once. Sudden movements that can cause more dislocation and/or injuries are able be minimized with this brace. The breathable neoprene makes the brace easier to wear under clothing and the elastic restraints strengthen your shoulder muscles and help you move correctly. This brace has moisture wicking mesh which keeps your muscles cooler. If you need more coverage across the bicep additional chest extensions are available.
- Bilateral brace provides support for both shoulders simultaneously
- Breathable and moisture-wicking material
- Elastic restraints help with correct movement and strengthening shoulder muscles
- Must only be hand washed, if not the material will not last
EVS Sports SB03 Shoulder Brace
This brace is an overall protective brace that prioritizes both support and comfort. It’s adjustable to fit all sizes, so measuring before buying is not necessarily needed, and fits both the right and left shoulder. It has an X-strap design to help keep the brocade in place on the shoulder which is great for efficiency and protection during practice and gameplay. This is a no-snag designed fit with an adjustable arm closure that eliminates underarm chafing.
- Adjustable sizing
- Designed to prevent chafing
- Good protection provided for play time
- Good levels of compression and support
- Design is slightly bulky
Zenkeyz Shoulder Support
This shoulder brace is good for orthopedic active healing. The stabilizing upper shoulder part of the brace has an ice pack pocket to store ice or heat packs. It also offers controlled compression that is necessary for healing. Its sleek fit makes it comfortable to wear and easy to have under clothes. This brace prioritizes healing as well as re-injury prevention so it’s recommended to wear it during playing.
- Good for active orthopedic healing
- Has ice/heat pack pocket
- Provides controlled compression
- Sleek fit
- Need to measure accurately before purchasing
NatraCure Hot and Cold Universal Shoulder Brace Support
This is a bilateral brace fitting both the right and left shoulder. It has a simple design and easily adjustable straps, which is always a plus. If more compression is needed all one has to do is tighten them to the desired level. This brace is not bulky so it can be worn well under clothes and while you’re sleeping. Hot or cold therapy is achievable with this brace. It comes with a gel pack that can be heated in the microwave and frozen in the freezer.
- Fits both left and right shoulders
- Easily adjustable straps
- Sleek fit
- Gel pack included, can be hot or cold
- May not provide enough support for rough play time
Benefits of Shoulder Braces for Basketball Players
There are many benefits to wearing a shoulder brace to heal an injury and/or help prevent the risk of re-injury.
A good brace should protect you from further injury. The skin around the injured area in some cases becomes sensitive to superficial contact. There should be an extra layer of padding that acts as a blocker for injury to your weakened area such as neoprene.
The main purpose of any shoulder brace is to give the injured and/or weak part of your shoulder provided support. This should be the case for when a player is shooting, passing, etc. Braces that provide an effective amount of support are snug and compressed to help fight inflammation. This will help with a more speedy length of recovery because the muscles can rest properly.
Use of Compression
Full or partial dislocation injuries can be helped with compression. According to studies receptors in the skin of a frequently dislocated shoulder cannot relay proper positioning to the brain. Skin receptors that work for message relays will be activated with the help of compression.
As a player, you need reasonable mobility from a shoulder brace in order to perform. Making shots, dribbling, passing the ball, and more require regular and overhead arm movement.
Even with mobility being needed, when you are first recovering from surgery or an injury a restricted level of movement is needed. The restriction will help keep you from doing more than necessary like hyperextending your arm or dislocating your shoulder.
Help with Strengthening Shoulder Muscles
Tension from resistance when performing movements with your shoulder “can strengthen the shoulder muscles by working against the brace while performing simple physiotherapy exercises.”Your shoulder muscles need to be strengthened again before regular use can be achieved, so braces will help get a player’s time off the court shortened.
What to Factor When Making Your Decision?
Now that you have knowledge of common injuries, what’s needed in their treatment, and the benefits of a brace you can make a more informed decision on what brace you may want to purchase, specifically from those recommended above. With this being said, what factors are most important to you? Here’s a quick list of things you might want to take into consideration.
Material is an important factor and preference. Ask yourself if the type of material of the brace will be comfortable for long periods of wear including exercise. Breathable material is top priority for this.
Another element to look at when it comes to the material is if the brace is washable. Whether it’s a washing machine or hand washing, keeping the shoulder brace clean is important. Wearing this everyday during the healing process and to do any playing or working out will cause obvious odor and possible bacteria if not cleaned regularly. Skin irritation will be a side effect of long-term use when a brace isn’t cleaned.
Performance and Durability
What exactly are you needing out of the performance and durability of a brace? The level of restriction vs mobility that you are looking for is a huge factor in selecting a brace. You will most likely want a more restrictive brace in your healing days and then transition into a more mobile brace with time. How durable the brace is will affect your overall performance as well as a player. Your brace will need to keep up with rough play and practice. The more durable, the better bang for your buck.
The fit of the brace combines all the elements of material, performance, and durability. It should feel comfortable, not painful or irritating. The fit needs to provide stability in order to do its job, which is why braces with adjustable straps are preferred. Also ask yourself whether you are looking for an over or under the clothes shoulder brace.
It’s unrealistic to think the cost isn’t a top factor in making a decision for what kind of brace to buy. Breaking the bank isn’t necessary in order to get a brace that will fit at least your basic needs. Braces can run as low as $25 USD or upwards of $100+ USD so choose what’s best for your needs and your budget.
Shoulder injuries are hard to avoid in basketball due to the constant arm motion required within the sport. Shoulder braces are designed to help during recovery and to prevent further re-injury risk. Finding a shoulder brace that is breathable, strengthens your shoulder muscles, and helps you keep a stable level of performance isn’t hard to find and with the six braces recommended above, any basketball player can find the best suited for them.