The great outdoors offers individuals the opportunity to improve their fitness while enjoying the beautiful surroundings that nature has provided. Sometimes, however, those beautiful surroundings can offer unintended consequences – like twisting or spraining your ankle. It’s happened to almost everyone at some point in time – you didn’t see that hole underneath those leaves and now you have a grade 2 ankle sprain preventing you from temporarily enjoying the activity you love.
Unlike most sports where ankle injuries are caused by players coming in contact with another athlete, this is certainly not the case in tennis. In tennis, the ankle injury is typically caused by extreme forward, backward and lateral movements that place significant stress on the ligaments of the ankle. These ligaments cannot handle the additional load and eventually an ankle injury occurs.
Some sports have a very high incidence of ankle injuries, so coaches and athletic trainers often times will require athletes to wear an ankle brace to help prevent the ankle injury. Yes, ankle braces can prevent some ankle injuries, however, they are really designed to lessen the severity should an injury occur. Wearing an ankle brace could be the difference in getting a grade 1 ankle sprain and missing two days of activity instead of getting a grade 2 ankle sprain and missing three weeks of activity.
Football ankle sprains are extremely common and are often a reason why players are forced to miss multiple practices and games each season. When it comes to determining the appropriate ankle brace for football players, it’s important to start by evaluating the position you play and then the injury history you have.
Seeing as an estimated 25,000 ankle sprains occur per day in the United States, it’s no surprise that thousands of people each day are looking for ways to remedy their newly injured ankle. As an athletic trainer who has diagnosed and treated thousands of ankle injuries over the past thirty years, here is my step-by-step guide for what you should do when you sprain your ankle.
As athletic trainers I feel like we’ve heard every story in the book when it comes to injuries that supposedly happened “at practice” or “during the game” but just so happened to not be reported until the following day. Coincidentally enough, these mysterious injuries usually surface on Monday mornings or after an extended break.
Typically, when the athlete describes how the injury occurs, the explanation sounds a little fishy and the more you probe for details, the more the story keeps changing. At this point in the conversation you’ve probably concluded the athlete is suffering from what we call a “non-athletic” athlete injury. Recently I was reminded of some of these stories and wanted to share three of my favorites I’ve heard over the years.
As an athletic trainer I attend numerous sporting events and the number one question I get from parents, coaches, and athletes is “Do ankle braces weaken the ankle?” In some sports with a very high incidence of ankle injuries such as volleyball, basketball, and football many players wear ankle braces every game and practice to help prevent ankle sprains or lessen the severity should an injury occur. By wearing ankle braces on both ankles throughout an entire season, it makes sense that parents, coaches, and players would wonder if there was any negative impact on ankle strength.
Ankle injuries are the second most prevalent injury in soccer, only behind head/facial injuries. With so much emphasis on the foot and ankle in soccer, it’s no wonder the ankle takes a beating.
Most ankle sprains in soccer occur during running, cutting or tackling. A high percentage of ankle injuries occur from direct side to side contact, as opposed to a front or back contact. Regardless of the mechanism of injury, the result is usually the ankle turning excessively inward, stretching the ankle ligaments. How much the ligaments stretch or tear will determine the extent of the ankle injury.
Did you get much education in college about the different ankle bracing technologies available? Many athletic trainers tell me they received little or no formal education about bracing of any sort.
As an AT I work a lot of tournaments where I hear “Why am I injuring my ankle even though I wear an ankle brace?” As all AT’s know, braces are designed to lessen the severity should an injury occur, but are you recommending the most effective ankle brace to help prevent those injuries?
Evaluating the most effective ankle brace starts with taking a look at it's design and ability to provide long-lasting joint support. Any ankle brace can feel supportive when you first apply it, but what happens to that brace in 30 minutes? An hour? Is there any support left? Here is a breakdown as to why some brace designs work well for long-lasting ankle support, while others fall short.