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.
One athletic trainer mentioned to me that the extent of their ankle brace education was the one day in class where the professor brought in various ankle, knee, shoulder and wrist braces for everyone to evaluate. Other athletic trainers tell me that the only education they received about bracing was working directly with sports teams, in which case they were only exposed to different braces the head athletic trainer or athletes were using at the time.
If you’re one of these athletic trainers that didn’t receive much formal training on ankle bracing and have been learning as you go, allow me to share the reasoning behind various ankle brace technologies available and how each design effects joint control and performance. Once you have a basic understanding of the various ankle brace designs, you can best choose the appropriate ankle brace for the specific condition.
Ankle Braces Recommended by Athletic Trainers
The four major types of ankle brace designs are as follows:
- Lace-up or Corset
Lace-Up (or Corset) Ankle Braces
The lace-up brace design was first introduced in 1887 and has since been replaced by more functional technologies for every other joint except the ankle. (You would never prescribe a lace-up knee brace for an athlete, would you?) Today lace-up ankle braces are primarily used as a reusable tape-job, and like a tape job they restrict normal ankle ROM which causes them to lose support rapidly. Lace-ups provide the least amount of long-lasting ankle stabilization and lack the durability to last more than one sports season.
Stirrup Ankle Braces
The stirrup design was first introduced in 1981 and is primarily prescribed by medical professionals to non-athletic patients as a splint for grade 1-2 ankle injuries. The stirrup design provides mild/moderate ankle stabilization, but is rarely used by athletic trainers because more functional ankle braces are available.
Hinged Ankle Braces
The hinge design was first introduced in 1989 as an evolution of the stirrup design to provide athletes full plantar and dorsiflexion ROM. The breakthrough concept behind the hinged design allowed the brace to move with normal joint movement while the straps could stay securely in place maintaining long lasting ankle support. The hinged designed brace can provide moderate to maximum ankle support for inversion and eversion ankle injuries.
Hinged-Cuff Ankle Braces
The hinged-cuff brace was first introduced in 2000 as an evolution of the hinged only brace primarily designed to restrict excessive ankle inversion, eversion and rotation. The semi-rigid cuff provided the rotational stability the brace needed to treat the syndesmotic ankle injury. The hinged-cuff ankle brace can provide moderate to maximum ankle stabilization for both high and low ankle injuries.
Do you have questions about different ankle brace technologies and how they may be used for a variety of conditions? Leave me a comment below or send me a message and I’d be happy to talk it through with you.
Written by Rick Peters
Rick Peters is a Certified Athletic Trainer who has been advancing ankle bracing technology for three decades. Peters patented his first ankle brace in 1985, revolutionizing the industry by adding a hinge to traditional stirrup braces for greater mobility. In 1989 he was a founder and became President of Active Ankle Systems. In 1998 he co-founded Ultra Athlete LLC to develop the next generation of ankle bracing technology. Peters has 18 ankle brace patents and is considered an authority on ankle bracing technology worldwide.