Volleyball is a very ballistic reactive sport, meaning at the snap of a finger the athlete must endure explosive cuts, vertical power and accelerated change of direction. All of these critical moves are initiated by one of the most important joints of the body – the ankle.
Athletes participating in competitive volleyball put a tremendous amount of stress on their ankle joints. These ankle ligaments holding the joint together can only withstand so much excessive twisting and turning before they start to stretch and eventually begin to slightly tear. This typically doesn’t present any negative symptoms in a volleyball player… until the moment comes when their ankle ligaments have tolerated all of the stress they can handle.
You most commonly see this happen when a player jumps at the net and then comes down only to land on another player’s foot resulting in an ankle injury. If the player was prepared for something like this to happen they would be heading to the athletic training table to get some ice and an evaluation. But what if the player isn’t prepared? Unfortunately, that typically means a trip to the emergency room for a medical evaluation that may consist of x-rays, scans, and more.
Studies show that 45% of high school volleyball players will injure their ankle during the sports season – and once a player injures their ankle they are 70% more likely to reinjure that same ankle. So how do you prepare to prevent potential ankle injuries before they end your season, hurt your chances at a scholarship, or leave your team with a less effective lineup for multiple games?
Some say you can do ankle strengthening exercises, which are effective until you land on another player’s foot. In that case no amount of ankle strength can help you. Others say taping and lace-up braces are the best way to go, but these outdated methods restrict normal ankle range of motion which hinders athletic performance and lose support rapidly. The best way to help prevent ankle injuries is by wearing a preventative ankle brace that allows for full range of motion. Wearing an ankle brace is not going to prevent all ankle injuries, but they will lessen the severity should an injury occur.
While ankle bracing could be the difference between a trip to see the athletic trainer or a trip to the emergency room, it’s critical to be smart when choosing the appropriate ankle brace for preventative purposes. When choosing an ankle brace you really want to focus on which brace is going to provide the best overall ankle protection without losing support or sacrificing comfort.
The most important aspect of ankle injury prevention is to allow the ankle to retain full range of motion while restricting it from excessive twisting and turning. The only type of ankle braces to restrict excessive twisting and turning are hinged-cuff ankle braces. When compared to other volleyball ankle braces, hinged-cuff braces are more durable, easy to apply, and provide a higher level of protection.
The second most important aspect of ankle injury protection is comfort. If the ankle braces aren’t comfortable, or take forever to put on, no athlete is going to commit to wearing them consistently all season long. Using soft-shell ankle braces that use the player’s body heat to form-fit to their ankle ensures maximum comfort while providing custom-fit support.
Last, but not least, the third most important aspect of ankle injury protection is making sure that the player still feels confident in their game while wearing ankle braces. Ankle braces should never restrict athletic performance or make an athlete feel like they can’t play to the best of their ability.
If you or your child is hesitant to begin wearing ankle braces, I would urge them to speak with one of our many certified athletic trainers to discuss which ankle bracing option is appropriate for them. In the words of 1,000 win Coach Ron Kordes of KIVA volleyball club and Assumption HS, “If they’re going to play this game, at some point they are going to be faced with an ankle injury. You’re trying to protect them from everything else – why not this?”