Study Finds Use of Ankle Brace Helps Prevent Ankle Injuries in Female Athletes

New study provides insight into protective ankle brace use among high school volleyball players

ROSEMONT, IL,  April 30, 2010 -- Sports injuries among high school athletes is estimated at a staggering 2 million each year with 500,000 doctor visits and 30,000 hospitalizations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  Ankle sprains are the most common sports related injury and the most common acute injury in volleyball. A recent study published in the April issue of Foot and Ankle International (FAI), the official journal of the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS), evaluates the effect of different types of ankle braces on the incidence of ankle sprains in high school volleyball players. The results show the use of an ankle brace significantly protects ankles from inversion ankle sprains among athletes who had not suffered from a previous injury.

The author of the study Carol Frey, MD, an AOFAS Active Member, noted that this was the first published study of its kind on the effectiveness of prophylactic ankle bracing in high school volleyball players. According to Dr. Frey, “Prophylactic ankle brace use is recommended for female volleyball players, especially those who have not had a previous sprain. Based on our data, however, we could not strongly recommend prophylactic ankle brace use for male high school volleyball players.”

The study evaluated 999 high school varsity volleyball players in Los Angeles, 40.7% male and 59.3% female, for an entire playing season. Five different types of ankle braces were used in the study including rigid, semi-rigid and non-rigid braces. Players were instructed to wear the brace during all practices and games. The braced group consisted of 957 participants and the un-braced control group included 42 participants. The results showed 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. Although study results showed no significant difference between the type of brace (rigid, semi-rigid, non-rigid) worn as a whole, there was a gender difference found in the group that wore the non-rigid brace; there was a statistically significant increase in injuries in female ankle sprains as compared to male ankle sprains wearing the same brace. There was an even more significant increase in ankle sprains seen in the group of women wearing a non-rigid brace as compared to the group of women wearing a semi-rigid or rigid brace. Study authors suggest “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.”


Jennifer Hicks
Public Education Manager
Office: 847-430-5079