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Volleyball & Ankle Braces

Volleyball is known for its ankle injuries and it’s become as common to see ankle braces on players as you do knee pads.  It’s become a cultural thing and many players and coaches are jumping on the bandwagon blindly.  Some coaches have been making ankle bracing mandatory for their players. However, you won’t see them on my daughter unless there is a very good reason to and here’s why:

1.    There’s no proof:  In healthy, active people without a history of ankle sprains, studies have not shown a benefit to wearing braces (those intended to prevent injury). Most studies do not report injury severity, so it is certainly possible that braces aft the severity of sprains-unfortunately there just isn’t good data out there to support it. *Taken from the blog posted below.

2.    Changing up your uniform:  Should you decide to use a brace of any kind, new shoes, new spandex. There should be a trial period at home first. Wear them around the house to get used to them. Do not change your any part of your uniform just before you play a game or practice and this includes shoes, braces, new sports bras etc.

3.    Concern for size: Even the smallest brace may be too large to fit younger kids properly. So parents need to ensure the brace fits properly in order to prevent injury.

4.    Advice from the expert:Coach Millicent Sylvan, The University of Maryland Eastern Shore Volleyball Coach and owner of Anatomy Performance believes coaches should use warm-ups to loosen up the tendons and teach of the girls exercises for their ankles.  She followed this up with the fact that she has played at the collegiate and international level as a middle hitter and has never worn a brace herself.

5.    Advice from the expert: A University of South Carolina Athletic Trainer advises that the focus should be on an ankle strengthening routine rather than adding a brace unless there is a prior injury or they are genetically/structurally prone to injury. Otherwise, they do not need them.

6.    Advice from the expert: Mike Armstrong, Assistant Athletic Director and Strength and Conditioning Coach at Riverbluff High School believes athletes need to train in all planes of motion so the ligaments and tendons can develop properly.  Mike believes using the ankle braces without a pre-existing condition weakens ankles.

7.    Advice from the expert:  Andrea Tyndall Strength and Conditioning Coach for Australian Institute of Sport and Tennis says, “No, No, No! I don’t believe anyone should wear the ankle braces unless they have previously sprained their ankles and then they should be in rehab.”

8.    If you have weak ankles: See a professional to learn ways to strength your ankles at home and if you need additional support, consider using a lace-up or semi-rigid brace instead of a hard-shell brace. The more rigid braces may provide too much immobilization, which may ultimately cause injury in the knees or other lower extremities. There is also some concern that the hard shell braces may prevent athletes from moving properly.

My bottom line:  Young athletes need a chance to develop and they need to be taught how to jump, run, absorb impact and be flexible with a strength/conditioning coach. I’m not sure why coaches are asking their girls to wear braces if most schools and clubs have an athletic trainer and/or strength and conditioning coach.  Unless there is a pre-existing condition or under direction of your doctor; say no to any additional braces.

Finally, Dr. Christopher Mazoue agreed with this blog and would like to add, "Volleyball players need to be taught a good ankle strengthening/proprioceptive  program that should he part of their weekly routine. I also feel they should not wear braces with their strength and conditioning program.

Blog cited above:

Angie Sellers