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Beverly Oden

POLL - Ankle Braces: Heaven Sent or Resident Evil?

By February 27, 2013

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This week's volleyball crime and punishment story features an inanimate perpetrator: the ankle brace. A woman in Texas is suing the company that made the ankle brace she was wearing when she injured herself severely. She was playing in a volleyball tournament when she went up for a block and came down awkwardly on her right leg. When she landed, her fibula and tibia broke at or near the location of the ankle brace. She had to undergo several surgeries and had a titanium rod placed in the leg, but the joint will probably never be the same.

She is suing for damages including medical expenses, mental anguish, emotional distress, physical pain and suffering, physical disfigurement, physical impairment, lost earning capacity, out-of-pocket expenses, court costs and interest.

This story reminded me of an old friend of mine who I recently had dinner with who went through almost the same thing 20 years ago. Coley Kyman, a stand out middle blocker at Northridge, severely injured his ankle while playing football in much the same way. He too believes that the ankle brace he was wearing made the injury much more severe and his doctors agree with him.

When I was playing on the national team, wearing ankle braces was mandatory and I don't remember anyone suffering any horrific injuries because of them. The American Journal of Sports Medicine conducted a study recently that found that lace-up ankle braces do reduce the incidence of ankle sprains in athletes with and without previous ankle injuries. But the same study also found that the ankle injuries that are suffered are not any less severe when injured wearing the brace.

Kyman is among those who believe that wearing ankle braces actually weakens the ankle because the body begins to depend on them. That sentiment is widespread, but I could find no actual evidence that this is true. It seems that it could be true however, that certain kinds of injuries could be more severe because of the ankle brace.

But as with wearing a seatbelt in a car, there are risks. Depending on the type of accident you're in, the seatbelt could actually cause injury or death. But more often than not, it will save your life. Is it the same with ankle braces? Are the odds of suffering a more serious injury small enough and the prevention of most ankle sprains important enough that wearing the brace is worth it?

Read Coley's story and the story about the Texas woman who decided to sue and let me know what you think by weighing in on the poll.


February 27, 2013 at 4:25 pm
(1) Keriann says:

I would like to say that I experienced the same thing in an important volleyball game in 2006 that happened in the above incident.

I will remain neutral about whether or not ankle braces weaken the ankles due to the dependence they cause. However, I will say that individuals should seriously consider the risks of wearing a plastic ankle brace. The break point of my tibia and fibula occurred directly above the top of the plastic ankle brace I was wearing at the time.

Take it for what it’s worth. I merely wanted to provide an extra voice to the issue.

P.S. I have not tried the cloth/soft ankle braces, so I will not provide an opinion on them and their effectiveness.

February 28, 2013 at 8:09 am
(2) outsider says:

I am dubious. I like your argument comparing ankle braces and safety belts, in terms of pure statistics. But what would be good to look at is how do people get injured when wearing ankle braces versus not. I mean when it comes to volleyball, which is a non contact sport, isnt the ankle braces more about not twisting your ankle coming from from a block, or landing on a ball? and didn’t Kyman got “clobbered by four members of the Aztec defensive line” which means the type of injury is quite different to what would happen in volleyball?

Also, it would be good to define what “weakens the ankle” actually means. Do we mean less balance and ability to maintain the ankle stability without support? Do we mean bone fragility?

I have been wearing ankle braces for a while, and while it prevents a full motion in a direction that is arguably not totally useful (lateral, which is where a sprain happens if it goes too far), it does allow some motion. Last year I came down from a spiker and landed on a ball, i heard everyone gasp (understandably) but wearing the brace i just slipped and landed on my bum, while i except without it, i would have landed straight with my ankle fully twisted or worse.

Anyway that’s an interesting subject and I wonder if there has been some studies on the subject or if it’s still about what everyone prefers and pure statistics. Would you have any reference?

June 20, 2013 at 11:33 am
(3) Chris Dean says:

I tend to agree that ankle braces cause the ankle to weaken over time and decrease mobility. They do offer some protection but I’ve always felt they were uncomfortable and restrictive. As far as causing injury above the ankle, I think the data still needs to be gathered…but I think the energy must go somewhere and if they ankle is rigid, something above it will give.

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