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.