Ankle Injuries - Article from USA Volleyball
Expert Advice from Aaron Brock
Certified Athletic Trainer and Head Athletic Trainer and Director of Sports Medicine for
U.S. Men’s National Volleyball Team
Ankle Braces Effectively Reduce Risk of Ankle Injury
Ankle sprains account for nearly half of all acute injuries in volleyball. Injury often occurs at the
net when you land on the foot of an opponent or teammate while blocking or attacking. This
action causes the ankle to turn inwards (inversion) leading to an injury to the ligaments (sprain)
on the outside of the ankle. In rare cases, a fracture to the foot or ankle can occur as well. Ankle
injuries can range from mild to severe and may cause you to miss a significant amount of time
while the ankle heals. Not only will you be sidelined after spraining an ankle, once the ankle is
injured, it is up to four times more susceptible to future injury. Therefore, prevention of ankle
injuries should be a top priority for all volleyball athletes. What is the best way to prevent ankle
injuries? You guessed it…ANKLE BRACES!
Current research has proven that ankle taping and bracing have protective effects for the ankle.
Although I feel that ankle taping is effective in stabilizing the ankle joint, ankle braces are more
practical. Many athletes do not have a certified athletic trainer to tape them everyday and ankle
braces are more cost effective. As the athletic trainer for the USA Men’s National Team, I get a
lot of comments and questions about ankle braces.
1. Do braces make my ankles weak? Ankle braces still allow the muscles around the ankle
and foot to work properly. Braces simply keep you from going into extreme positions that can
often cause injury. Braces actually increase your “stabilization strength” and proprioception.
Proprioception is your ankle’s ability to communicate effectively with your brain to contract
muscles in correct patterns to produce stability.
2. Do braces create knee injuries? There is no evidence in the current literature that suggests
ankle braces create knee injuries.
3. Which ankle brace should I use? There are several options. Semi-rigid braces such as
Active Ankle (www.activeankle.com) allow necessary up and down movements and do a great
job preventing the dangerous inversion. There are also numerous soft, lace-up braces with
figure 8 straps that are available to help prevent ankle injuries (www.ankleshop.com).
4. Braces slow me down and decrease my performance. Currently, no conclusive evidence
suggests that ankle braces adversely affect performance.
5. I just don’t like wearing ankle braces. Once you get used to wearing the braces, you won’t
even know you have them on. Just think of the braces as part of your uniform. You need to take
care of your body to produce optimal results on the volleyball court…protecting your ankles
should be a top priority.
6. I’ve sprained my ankle before but it is fine now. Once the ligaments in your ankle are
injured, they will never have the same strength that they originally had. Your ankle may feel fine
but you are approximately four times more likely to re-sprain your ankle because the ligaments
are not as strong. Current research states that ankle braces are very effective in decreasing your
risk for re-injury.
7. Is it possible to sprain my ankle when wearing ankle braces? It is still possible to sprain
an ankle while wearing ankle braces but the risk is significantly diminished. Also, ankle sprains
while wearing braces usually result in a less severe sprain.
Over the past two years, nearly 90 percent of all ankle sprains in the USA Men’s National
Volleyball Team members have been to unprotected ankles. Therefore, only 10 percent of all
sprains occurred in taped or braced athletes. Whether you are an Olympian or a young
volleyball player, ankle braces will reduce the risk of injuring your ankle.