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Prevent injuries, use collagen

2019-02-01 by Peter Hespel & Martijn Redegeld

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Sooner or later, despite proper warming up, stretching, and cooling down, every athlete will experience a muscle or joint injury. A total of about 70% of all athletes’ consultations with doctors or physiotherapists are the result of injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, bone, or cartilage. This has led to scientific research increasingly focused on the prevention of these kinds of injuries. Currently, a unique place has been found for collagen in this research. It is a substance that appears to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury.

Musculoskeletal injuries are often caused by a weakened extracellular matrix. This matrix surrounds bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. In general, it provides tissues with structure and rigidity, just like the steel rebar in reinforced concrete. For an athlete, this matrix has two important functions:

  1. It absorbs impact during physical exercise, for example when jumping, sliding, straining, etc. It is extremely important for preventing injuries.
  2. The force developed in the muscle via the tendons is passed on to the bones to optimise speed and strength.

In recent years, it has become clear that this matrix is not a static whole. In fact, it can be strengthened with training and diet. The most important nutrient in the matrix is collagen, which is a substance found in many other connective tissues in the body. It is no surprise that the idea arose that consuming extra collagen would strengthen the matrix to reduce the risk of injury during physical exercise and, at the same time, maximise strength and speed. In fact, recent research confirms this theory. Training with a strengthening effect on muscles, tendons, and joints in combination with supplemental collagen stimulates the extracellular matrix up to twice as much as the same training regime without the supplement.

Initial studies in this domain suggest that this supplement does reduce the risk of injury. In addition, there are scientific indicators that long-term use of this supplement can lead to strengthened cartilage and less joint pain. This led to the idea that musculoskeletal injuries would heal more quickly under the influence of additional collagen intake. However, this theory is unresolved at this time. This is also true regarding the effects of collagen consumption on muscle strength and speed.

Practical application

Based on current scientific findings, collagen has added value with respect to preventing injuries, in particular in contact sports (such as football, basketball, hockey, etc.) or with exercise that highly strains the musculoskeletal system (such as volleyball, contact sports, such as football, sprinting, and endurance running). To achieve the previously mentioned effects, the collagen supplement must be combined with a relatively short period of physical exercise (about five minutes) that strains the musculoskeletal system. For example, jumping rope, steps training, or gentle squats. To achieve the optimum effect, 15 grams of collagen must be consumed about one hour prior to the exercise session in combination with 50 milligrams of vitamin C. During the recuperation period after an injury, two short sessions per day should be completed separated by an interval of about six hours and after the consumption of a collagen supplement.

Gummies

Gelatine

Gelatine and collagen are frequently confused with each other, including when it comes to the prevention of injuries. Gelatine is made from collagen. This substance is best known for its use in baking products, sweets (e.g. wine gums), etc. You might think that, theoretically, this means gelatine provides the same effects on the musculoskeletal system as pure collagen. However, this is not practical because 15 grams of collagen is needed to make about 100 gummy bears, a virtual sugar and calorie bomb. Recent research also shows that bouillon made from bones (that contain gelatine) is also unsuitable as a source of collagen. Thus, a collagen supplement is the most suitable means of preventing injuries in athletes.

Summary

More and more research has shown that collagen is effective in strengthening and recovering the extracellular matrix and cartilage, which reduces the risk of a musculoskeletal injury. In addition, the consumption of collagen after injuries contributes to faster recovery and may stimulate maximum strength and speed during physical exercise. Currently, research on the effects of collagen supplementation is in full swing. To achieve the optimum effect, 15 grams of collagen must be consumed about one hour prior to a short exercise session (5-6 minutes) in combination with 50 milligrams of vitamin C.

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