Sports injuries are, unfortunately, a fact of life in high school sports, but many are preventable. In volleyball, as in all high school sports (1), ankle sprains are, not surprisingly, the most common injury overall, and the most common acute injury. A 2010 study, however, suggests that volleyball players who wear ankle braces can reduce the risk of first-time ankle sprains.
The study, the first to evaluate the effectiveness of ankle bracing in preventing ankle sprains in volleyball, is in the April 2010 issue of Foot and Ankle International (FAI), the official journal of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) (2).
Based on the study, the use of ankle brace by both female and male volleyball players, especially those who have not had a previous sprain, is now recommended.
The study evaluated nearly one thousand high school varsity volleyball players in Los Angeles, male and female, for an entire playing season. Players wore five different types of ankle braces, including rigid, semi-rigid and non-rigid braces, and were instructed to wear the brace during all practices and games, while a small control group did not wear a brace.
The results showed about 9.3% of the athletes (93 out of 999) suffered an inversion ankle sprain during the course of one season. The sprains occurred almost equally among the braced group (9.3%) and the un-braced group (9.5%).
However, when studying only those athletes who had not had a previous sprain, the results showed a significant decrease in ankle sprains among athletes in two of the brace groups.
Non-rigid brace less effective for girls
Although the type of brace worn did not result in a significant overall difference in injury rates, the number of ankle sprains among females who wore a non-rigid brace was higher, and the injury rate for females was higher than for males wearing the same type brace.
An even more significant increase in ankle sprains was seen in the group of women wearing a non-rigid brace as compared to the group wearing a semi-rigid or rigid brace. The study authors speculated that "this increase may be due to the gender difference of women having greater ligament laxity than men and thus, a more rigid external support provided more protection."
It is important to note that some studies (3,4) have found no effect or even increased risks with brace use. A meta-analysis found ankle supporting-devices including taping, semirigid braces, and lace-up braces have minimal effects on nonelite athletes. (5). As a result, there is no current "best practice" recommended with respect to external support devices (1), and large-scale trials evaluating brace efficacy, specifically effectiveness across sports, body mass index categories, and athletes with and without prior ankle injury have been called for to determine the appropriate role of bracing in ankle sprain prevention efforts. (1)
1. Swenson D, Collins C, Fields S, Comstock R. Epidemiology of US High School Sports-Related Ligamentous Ankle Injuries, 2005/06-2010-11. Clin J Sport Med 2013;23(3):190-196.
2. Frey C, Feder K, Sleight J. Prophylactic ankle brace use in high school volleyball players: a prospective study. Foot Ankle Int. 2012;31:296-300.
3. Tyler T, McHugh M, Mirabella M, et al. Risk factors for noncontact ankle sprains in high school football players: the role of previous ankle sprains and body mass index. Am J Sports Med. 2006;34:471-475.
4. McGuine T. Sports injuries in high school athletes: a review of injury-risk and injury-prevention research. Clin J Sport Med. 2006;16:488-499.
5. Cordova M, Scott B, Ingersoll C, et al. Effects of ankle support on lower-extremity functional performance: a meta-analysis. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2005:37:635-641.
Posted April 30, 2010. Updated May 21, 2014
Editor's Note: To prevent the spread of skin infections, all equipment, including knee sleeves and braces, ankle braces, etc. should be disinfected with a 1:10 bleach solution on a daily basis. For more about the prevention, recognition, and treatment of infectious skin diseases, click here.
Is equipment, including knee sleeves and braces, ankle braces, etc. being disinfected in the manufacturer's recommended manner on a daily basis