There is a lot of misinformation being circulated about ankle braces and their effect on the body and athletic performance.
Why Use a Brace or Support?
A support brace helps you by:
- Relieving your pain
- Resting the injured tissues by taking some of the stressful loads
- Protecting the injured structures from further injury
- Allowing for initial tissue healing
- Preventing future injury by support or joint stabilisation.
A hinged style ankle brace that allows full up and down ankle range of motion will not weaken the joint because the brace is allowing unrestricted natural ankle motion. Hinged style ankle braces move with the ankle joint, and not against it, to protect the ankle from twisting and turning while still allowing for full natural range of motion.
A lace-up style ankle brace restricts all ankle range of motion, even up and down movements. This up and down natural ankle range of motion is not a cause of ankle injuries so there is no need to restrict it. One could argue that by restricting normal ankle range of motion you could potentially weaken the ankle, so it’s important to compare different ankle braces and choose the one that is best for your specific situation.
Wearing an ankle braces for an extended period of time will not weaken the ankle. There are no clinical studies available that support the notion that wearing ankle braces weaken the ankle.
Lace -up style ankle supports do hurt athletic performance. A recent study by the University of South Alabama concluded that wearing a lace-up ankle brace negatively affective ankle joint motion and muscle function. In other words, wearing a lace-up ankle brace reduced ankle range of motion and muscle strength in athletes thus reducing the level at which they could effectively perform.
Aren’t You Only Supposed to Wear an Ankle Brace After an Injury?
Athletes that play sports with a high incidence of ankle injuries like volleyball and basketball should wear preventative ankle bracing since there are many situations during a game where ankle injuries cannot be prevented regardless of ankle strength or athletic ability. With these sports it’s not “if” the injury will occur but “when” it will occur – think coming down on another player’s foot after jumping for a block or a rebound.
However, in other sports with less ankle injuries it’s not absolutely necessary to wear preventative ankle bracing. In those cases, it would be important to look into ankle bracing after an injury since 70% of athletes who sprain their ankle end up re-spraining that same ankle causing further damage to ankle ligaments.