Lateral Ankle Sprains: Should Athletes Brace?

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By: Hollan Oliver, DPT, OCS, SCS 

Ankle injuries are the most common site for acute musculoskeletal injuries. My experience as a physical therapist working with elite and professional athletes has certainly confirmed how common ankle injuries are. I was heartbroken to hear that my younger cousin severely sprained his ankle during the first basketball game of his senior year. These can be nagging injuries for athletes and the recurrence rates are high without proper management. I field lots of questions from athletes, coaches, and parents regarding the proper care of an ankle sprain. This blog will answer some of the most common questions I receive to help improve recovery.

“I sprained my ankle. What are the chances that I’m going to sprain my ankle again?”

I often receive this question from athletes who are worried about their long-term ability to play sports. Unfortunately, the research is pretty clear that if you’d sprained your ankle once, your reoccurrence rate is pretty high without proper management. It’s important to see a physical therapist right away to restore your mobility, address your strength and balance impairments and prepare your ankle for the unique demands of playing sports.

“My teenager sprained her ankle, should she wear an ankle brace for sports?”

Yes! Wearing an ankle brace following a sprain can drastically reduce your risk of re-injury! Check out the statistics below comparing athletes with and without previous injury who wore a brace versus those that did not wear a brace.

“Which is better, taping an ankle or wearing an ankle brace?”

Although ankle taping is common practice in athletics, research shows that you lose 20% of the support from the tape within 20 minutes. In my professional opinion, go straight to the ankle brace if you can! If you are searching for recommendations, I personally prefer the active ankle T2 brace.

“Will an ankle brace decrease my performance or weaken my ankles?”

Athletes often fear that wearing an ankle brace will have an adverse impact on performance. Thankfully research does not support these beliefs. Early evidence regarding functional performance suggests that semi-rigid ankle braces do not adversely influence vertical jump height, sprint times or agility run times.

The Moral of The Story

Prophylactic ankle braces have significantly reduced the incidence of initial and recurrent ankle sprains injuries in athletic populations. It’s important to note that these braces should be comfortable and worn both in practice and in competition to have maximum benefit. If you want to learn how Coastline Physical Therapy & Performance and Dr. Hollan Oliver can help you recover from an ankle injury, contact her directly at hollan@coastlinetherapy.com or visit www.coastlinetherapy.com

About Coastline Physical Therapy & Performance: Dr. Hollan Oliver, DPT, OCS, SCS is a sports and orthopedic specialist who helps patients and athletes feel better, move better and perform better.