Us professional athletes tend to err on the side of caution and often feel even the slightest niggle can lead to a terminal issue. Some may even call us hypochondriacs; probably with good reason.
I race cyclo-cross, an off-road cycling discipline ridden over grass, sand, mud, snow and ice, depending on the course and time of year. Having been national champion 6 times in this discipline, I’ve had my fair share of racing incidents. However, as you age, you pick up training injuries too.
Recently, when training off road, I spent a lot of time attacking sand banks to practice carrying enough speed to get over them and ended up with a very slight acromioclavicular joint (ACJ) ligament tear. Your AC joint is the point where the collar bone joins the shoulder blade at the top of shoulder. The lowest grade tear leads to pain on most shoulder movements and in particular bringing your arm across your body. When sprinting out of the saddle this is quite an important movement, so it was vital to fix it pretty quickly. The picture below shows the anatomy of the shoulder and a grade 3 separation (fortunately my injury is a grade 1 partial injury and nowhere near as severe).
Having been a physiotherapist in a previous life, I was able to self diagnose and counter diagnosis with university friends who are still therapists. The general rule of treatment for an injury of this nature is rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication for the first week alongside taping during exercise. I have never used rock tape before and I was seriously impressed with its elasticity, stickiness and ease of cutting (due in particular to it having spaced lines so you can guarantee equal sized strips).
I finally decided on using two straight-line pieces (one front and one back of the shoulder) and a longer strip starting at the front of the shoulder, passing over the AC joint and shoulder blade before heading down diagonally towards the spine. The aim was to activate the lower fibres of the trapezius muscle (a major muscle in shoulder blade movement and alignment).
The first time I went out with my shoulder taped, I really felt the stability I needed to allow the ligament to heal itself. After the first seven days I started isometric shoulder exercises (muscle contractions with no movement involved) and plenty of lower trapezius exercises to help prevent my shoulder from doing this to me again in the future. Just three weeks later and I can ride more than four hours without tape, although I am still using it for that extra peace of mind in off road training.
Thanks to the guys at rock tape my rehab has been made very easy.