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Fencing is a competitive sport played between two individuals that involves making weapon contact with an opponent in a targeted area. The weapons used in modern fencing include sabre, foil and epee.
The sport is asymmetrical in terms of kinetics and kinematic, requiring high levels of strength, control and coordination. The dynamic nature of the sport combined with repetitive movements can make athletes vulnerable to a number of injuries of the lower extremity.
For instance, fencers execute ‘the lunge’ in order to score a point against the opponent. This involves quickly thrusting their weapon towards the opponent. Whilst a simple move, this requires an explosive extension of the trailing leg to perform a forceful forward lunge.
In addition to the lunging movement, there are various other quick ‘propulsion’ and ‘dodge’ offense/defense movements that can further increase a fencer’s predisposition to lower limb injuries.
A cross-sectional study involving 115 fencing athletes from several Athletic Clubs in the Tri-State area helped determine the type of injuries that were commonly experienced by athletes in the sport.
All injuries were categorised as either mild, moderate or severe. Ninety-seven of the participants reported experiencing pain as a result of their injury. The ankle and knee were established as the most common sites of injury.
Some of the specific injuries found in these athletes included lateral epicondylosis, patellar tendinopathy, and patellofemoral pain syndrome.
It is necessary that efforts are made to highlight injury education and to prevent the occurrence and recurrence of injuries; the study noted that fifty-one percent of the participants suffered injury recurrence, with more than half of the participants not seeking treatment after injury.
Chen et al. conducted an extensive review of literature pertaining to the subject to gain a better understanding of the biomechanics of fencing with a view to developing effective preventative and treatment strategies for athletes.
The authors identified factors (both intrinsic and extrinsic) that need to be considered in the formulation of training programmes for fencing athletes. For instance, sex-specific differences are of crucial importance because of variations in anthropometrics, neuromuscular functions and muscle strength.
It is interesting to note that ballistic training can help in increasing the rate of muscle force generation that is needed for generating higher lunge velocity and quicker fencing moves.
According to the authors, this type of training may even be combined with resistance training to optimise the explosive, power and endurance requirements of fencing. Most of the improvements can occur within the first 200 to 300 milliseconds of a single lunge movement.
In order to prevent asymmetry-induced injuries, it is advisable to introduce balance or weight training that can help in addressing any unevenness in muscle growth between the dominant and nondominant lower limb.
An interesting observation from the review was the fact that fencers’ feet are repeatedly exposed to large transient impact shock, especially during sudden forward thrusts which can increase the risk of lower limb injuries.
Additionally, fencing shoes provide little shock absorption as compared to standard court shoes, or shoes used in sports such as squash and running.
MASS4D® custom foot orthotics can enhance the shock absorption properties of the feet by regulating any foot postural disparities such as pes planus. The supportive force provided by these orthotics helps in the early management and treatment of a number of foot deformities or pathologies.
In addition to regulating foot postural disparities, MASS4D® can also serve as rehabilitative devices to improve lower limb kinematics and muscular strength required for performing some of the complex fencing moves such as the lunge.
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