Interview with expert orthotist Dirk Schwager
“Our supports are characterized by a 3D knit”
Dirk Schwager has worked as an expert orthotist at the Bauerfeind Academy for five years and has been at Bauerfeind for a whole decade overall. He tests products and trains staff in Bauerfeind product application techniques. Dirk Schwager also supplies top athletes with the right aids that are tailored to meet each individual’s requirements. Since he knows so much about Bauerfeind products, he also helps with product development at the Bauerfeind Innovation Center. In the interview, he offers tips on using supports and orthopedic aids.
Mr. Schwager, what’s special about Bauerfeind knee supports?
The base material used determines whether a support is of a high standard of quality: our supports are characterized by a 3D knit, which lies flat and is designed to fit the anatomy of the human body. There is an integrated donning aid to make the support easier to put on. A special pad also stabilizes the kneecap so that it cannot move inward or outward. In addition, all our supports have silicone edging, which ensures that they do not slip – after all, a good hold is crucial.
How does a knee support actually work?
The magic word is compression. The support surrounds a particular region of the knee joint. The interaction between the support and the surrounding tissue activates the muscle pump in the knee. It also stimulates the metabolism in the affected area. The pad is essential for the support to function properly: it is made from a material similar to silicone, which surrounds the kneecap. The lateral spiral stays in the support ensure that the knitted fabric does not collapse in on itself and that the support retains its 3D shape. These functions support and stabilize the knee.
Can customers who experience knee instability also wear a knee support as a preventative measure?
We provide different types of knee support that we individually tailor to each customer’s indication. The GenuTrain knee support, for example, can be used for slight knee instability, whereas we recommend GenuTrain P3 in cases where the kneecap is prone to migrating outward. This support is ideal for these symptoms: compared to the GenuTrain, it has a higher working pressure, a specially shaped pad and a corrective strap, which holds the kneecap in the right position.
Which supports or orthoses do you generally recommend for sport?
I cannot give a general tip. Apart from anything else, that goes against our philosophy that aids should be individually tailored to each customer’s requirements. I always examine the movement patterns of the individual athletes. Cross-country skiers, for example, have a totally different sequence of movements to alpine skiers. The aid must therefore be individually tailored to each type of sport, to the patients and, above all, to each customer’s indication.
“Aids must be individually tailored to the people using them”
Mr. Schwager, winter sports such as skiing or snowboarding in particular put a lot of stress on our joints. Why?
The knee is under immense strain when we take part in winter sports. It is a pivotal hinge joint by nature and is subjected to vertical strain, particularly when we are skiing or snowboarding. This means that the axis migrates during movement. It is therefore important that the orthosis or support is a good match for the joint that it is designed to support. I always try to tailor the aid to the person and the type of sport concerned. The objective is to try to understand the movement pattern of the individual athlete as well as possible in order to provide targeted support.
Skiers are aware that orthopedic problems are often aggravated if you wear ski boots all day. What can you do to prevent this?
The positioning of the foot in the ski boot is very important. Fact number one: the boot must fit properly. Fact number two: foot orthoses can be used to relieve pressure on the foot. Skiers always lean forward slightly and the movement in the boot is generally toward the front. It is therefore important for your heel to be well secured in the boot. An individual foot orthosis can provide good support.
What do winter sports athletes need to watch out for when returning to sport after an injury-related break?
It is always a good idea to support and stabilize recovering joints with a support. This also provides a feeling of security on the piste or on the flat. However, it is not just the individually tailored orthosis system or the support that is important, particularly after an injury. Physiotherapy is also essential as it trains the motor system, which first needs to be built back up again by taking a longer break. Only the combination of the two will enable patients to enjoy moving around freely again.