A common question I get several times a week from people inquiring through our website portal is, “which ankle brace is best for me, the Ultra Zoom or the Ultra High-5.” Which I reply with several questions about their current ankle condition and injury history.

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Ankle osteoarthritis (OA) can be a very painful condition that can limit your activity level causing a negative impact on your quality of life. Ankle OA occurs when the articular cartilage in the ankle has worn away resulting in bone on bone irritation.

Most often, the OA condition is a result of previous ankle trauma such as ankle sprains or fractures. Although ankle sprains or fractures might fully heal, the trauma can eventually lead to joint deterioration and ultimately OA. Underlying medical conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis can also be debilitating to the ankle joint.  

For the most part, ankle osteoarthritis is a result of wear and tear on the joint from years of activities that put strain on the ankles. OA does increase with age causing the ankle cartilage to wear thin providing less cushioning between the bones.

SYMPTOMS AND TREATMENT

Symptoms of ankle osteoarthritis include:

  • inflammation and swelling around the ankle joint
  • ankle pain and stiffness
  • pain when standing, walking, or bearing weight

When it comes to treating your ankle osteoarthritis, your doctor may recommend a number of options:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs to help reduce joint swelling and pain
  • Physical therapy to aide in reducing joint inflammation and regaining ankle range of motion.
  • The use of an ankle brace to reduce weight bearing pain and help prevent excessive ankle movement that can cause further injury

THE BEST ANKLE BRACES FOR OSTEOARTHRITIS PAIN

While long term physical therapy can help a patient with their ankle OA, the quickest option to reduce joint irrigation and pain may be the use of an ankle brace.

While most ankle braces are designed to help prevent excessive ankle turning, some ankle braces are also designed to reduce weight bearing pain associated with ankle injuries. For an ankle brace to reduce weight bearing pain it must “unload or offload” the ankle. “Unloading” means the ankle brace will absorb some of the impact from standing or walking that would normally be transferred to the ankle joint causing irritation and pain.

Our Ultra CTS (Custom Treatment System) ankle brace is designed for individuals that have an acute ankle injury and weight bearing pain, but it is also equally effective for OA sufferers who need relief from the bone on bone irritation which is causing their OA. The Ultra CTS works by absorbing a portion of the impact created from standing or walking and then applies that impact “or energy” to the lower leg thus bypassing the sore ankle.

Less impact means less pain and joint irritation.

Since ankle OA is mainly caused by a history of ankle trauma which could include multiple ankle sprains or fractures, it stands to reason the ankle may be unstable which is contributing to the joint wear and tear. The Ultra CTS will stabilize and firm up the lower leg and ankle which will help control unwanted joint movement which causes excessive irritation and pain. Since the Ultra CTS has a hinge, full up and down ankle range of motion is encouraged to help keep the muscles strong and the joint flexible.

With ankle osteoarthritis the goal is to reduce joint irritation so the condition doesn’t worsen. Wearing the Ultra CTS is a great way to reduce or slow down the effects of OA so you can maintain a healthy and mobile lifestyle.

If you have any other questions about ankle braces for your ankle osteoarthritis, leave us a comment below or send one of our certified athletic trainers a message.

Ultra Zoom

Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

Ultra High-5

Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries

In the 1990’s athletic trainers were spending considerable time and money taping the ankles of their players – a practice that some are still dedicated to today. During this time, lace-up ankle braces were introduced to reduce cost and save time, acting as essentially a reusable tape job that the athlete could apply themselves. As a result, lace-ups became popular as a low-cost alternative to taping the ankle. Now, lace-up style braces are inexpensive and readily available at all sporting goods stores – but are they the best option to protect your ankle from potential injuries?

Lace-Up Ankle Braces Lose Support Rapidly

When we are at sports tournaments we hear the same thing over and over from athletes, “why do I keep spraining my ankle if I wear a lace-up or tape my ankle?” Both tape and lace-ups feel so tight when you first apply them that you think, “wow, this is really going to support my ankle!” Then 30 minutes into a game you land on another players foot and sustain a grade 2 ankle injury. All that support that was felt when you first applied the brace is gone.

Some studies have shown that tape loses 70% of its effectiveness in the first 15 minutes of activity. The reason for this is that tape restricts the natural up and down movement of the ankle that is needed to run and jump. By restricting the natural joint movement, tape loses support rapidly. The same logic can be applied a lace-up brace acting as a reusable tape job – during activity it quickly stretches out and loosens as any fabric would, greatly reducing the level of support it can provide.

You’re Basically Binding Up Your Joint

Another reason why I would not recommend a lace-up style ankle brace is because it restricts the natural up and down movement of the ankle which is needed to perform at the highest level and keep your muscle strong. If the goal is to jump the highest or run the fastest, the last thing you would want is an ankle brace that binds, or ties, up your ankle and restricts the very motion you need to perform.

We would never restrict knee or elbow range of motion with a brace during athletic activity, so why would we want to restrict the ankle?

Lace-Up Ankle Supports are a Stinky Investment

My collegiate athletic trainer colleagues have told me their athletes can go through three pairs of lace-up braces per season, making them a worse investment than a slightly more expensive, long-lasting ankle brace. Lace-ups are made of fabric that, due to the constant resistance to the joint’s natural range of motion, ending up stretching, ripping, and/or tearing severely reducing the amount of time you can use it before having to buy a new one.

Aside from the natural tendency of fabric to wear out, it also absorbs bacteria. This bacteria not only causes the brace (and everything it comes in contact with…) to smell terrible but it also aides in further deteriorating the brace itself.

Better Alternatives to Lace-Up Ankle Stabilizers

Ankle braces are no different than any other product in the sense that you get what you pay for.

Lace-up braces represent the lowest cost type of ankle brace you can purchase, therefore it provides the least amount of support, performance, and durability. A much better solution for everyday use to help prevent the ankle injury is a semi-rigid, hinged cuff ankle brace. Our hinged-cuff ankle brace, the Ultra Zoom, allows you to move in all the natural ways and none of the bad ones. You’ll play better and play more losing less time to injuries.

If you have any questions about ankle braces, including more info on transitioning to a new brace from your lace-up, send our certified athletic trainers a message. We’re here to help you make the best ankle brace decision for your situation.

Ultra Zoom

Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

Ultra High-5

Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries

One thing is certain with volleyball, every year you play the sport it becomes more and more competitive, aggressive, and intense. With the increased level of play comes an increase in injuries, which are oftentimes more severe due to the higher level of intensity athletes are consistently performing at.

Most volleyball players, parents, and coaches have come to accept that the ankle is the most injured body part in volleyball – especially for those of you who play at the net. With the jumping, cutting, and diving in volleyball a tremendous amount of stress is put on the ligaments that hold your ankle joint together. This, in addition to the dangerous environmental factors at play – such as jumping and landing on another players foot – means that the risk of hurting your ankle while playing volleyball is extremely high.

Once an ankle injury has been sustained, you are 70% more likely to re-injure your ankle. Each time your ankle ligaments get stretched or torn from excessive twisting or turning, they never regain their integrity and tightness making it easier to get another ankle sprain. This cycle of injury is common amongst competitive volleyball players and if you’re one of the people who suffers from constantly twisting or spraining your ankle then you’re probably all too familiar with this process.

As a certified athletic trainer, the best advice I can give young competitive volleyball players is to help prevent the cycle of injury before it starts by wearing a preventative ankle brace that is built for athletes and optimized to enhance their performance. Soft, lace-up ankles braces can’t provide the level or length of support serious athletes need and hard plastic ankle braces are too rigid and bulky for many players to tolerate. At Ultra Ankle, we work with some of the top competitive volleyball clubs in the country for their ankle bracing needs. Here are some of the common questions we often hear from parents or players learning more about why ankle braces are important in volleyball –

Do all players need to wear an ankle brace? Or only certain positions? While most teams require all of their players to wear preventative ankle braces due to the constant threat of jumping and coming down on another player’s foot, some teams only require those playing at the net to wear ankle braces. Since our Ultra Zoom preventative ankle brace uses a material that form fits to the ankle, it only restricts any excessive movement that causes injury while allowing you to move in all of the natural ways needed to play your sport. It’s flexible enough for defensive specialists while being  supportive enough for those playing at the net.

Do ankle braces limit my vertical jump? After training hard to maximize your performance and improve your jump height, it’s crucial that your protective gear doesn’t limit you in any way. The only ankle braces that limit your vertical are those without hinges. Any ankle brace that laces up, wraps around, or binds up your ankle is restricting your natural range of motion and therefore limiting your performance. If you play at the net its very important that you choose an ankle brace that is not going to negatively impact your vertical jump.

Will ankle braces weaken my ankle? Currently there is no clinical research that confirms wearing a preventative, hinged brace every practice or game will weaken your ankle or cause injury to another body part such as your knee. If you wear a hinged brace your ankle can move through its full range of motion keeping your joint flexible and your muscles strong.

Aren’t all hinged braces big and bulky or made of hard plastic that is prone to breaking? If you’ve been playing volleyball for awhile you may have noticed that some of the hinged ankle braces players wear are big, bulky, rigid and have a tendency for the hard plastic to crack. And you’re right. It’s because of those outdated designs that we developed the first performance based, hinged ankle brace that uses your body heat to form fit to your ankle for a low-profile, comfortable fit that will never crack or break. It’s not too soft and joint restricting, and it’s also not too bulky and hard. When it comes to volleyball ankle braces, the Ultra Zoom fits just right. It’s on your ankle in seconds, protects you consistently for hours, and lasts for years.

Will the Ultra Zoom ankle brace work for my specific ankle condition? Since every volleyball player and their ankle injury history is different, we offer the ability to message our certified athletic trainers directly to receive a customized bracing recommendation. If you’re interested in learning more about which one of our Ultra Ankle braces would be best for you, send our athletic trainers a message.

Ultra Zoom

Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

Ultra High-5

Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries

While hinged braces might not be the most exciting topic in the world to discuss, it’s definitely an important one. Whether your joint has been injured, or you’re trying to prevent an injury from occurring, it is crucial that the brace you wear is effective in supporting and stabilizing your joint.

Two major components of a brace that dictate its effectiveness are the design features that set it apart from similar products and the materials in which it’s made.

IMPORTANT FEATURES OF A BRACE

One of the most common design features in modern bracing is the use of a hinge. You might think that the purpose of a hinged brace is to keep your muscles strong and enhance performance by allowing for full range of motion. While this is a perk of using a brace with a hinge, it’s not the main reason why the most advanced elbow, ankle, and knee braces are designed this way.

The main reason a hinge is used in knee, elbow and ankle braces is to achieve sustainable, long-lasting joint support. When the brace can move freely throughout a non-injury range of motion, the straps that hold the brace to the joint stay securely in place resulting in support throughout an entire practice or game.

Lace-up braces restrict all joint range of motion and since they aren’t working in conjunction with the joint, like a hinged brace, the laces and straps end up migrating, stretching, and rapidly losing support during activity. For this reason, tie-up elbow and knee braces that limit non-injury range of motion haven’t been used for decades, however, when it comes to ankle braces people continue to bind up their joints and limit their performance for minimal support in a lace-up ankle brace.

QUALITY AND EFFECTIVE MATERIALS

While ankle braces were finally catching up with knee and elbow braces in the design department with the addition of effective hinges, they were still lacking in the materials used to create braces. When hinged braces first came on the scene in the late 1980s, they were big and bulky and consisted of a hard plastic that had a tendency to break and crack within a couple of months. Up until the late 1990s, this rigid plastic was the only material hinged braces were made out of. This forced people to choose between a soft, comfortable brace that provided minimal support or a hard plastic brace that provided ultimate support with full range of motion but could be very uncomfortable.

When it comes to wearing an ankle brace – people choose the more comfortable version almost every time. This, along with a lower price point, led to a resurgence in lace-up ankle braces, despite their minimal support and performance restricting design.

Knowing there was a better way, the innovators at Ultra Ankle set out to develop a new material for hinged ankle braces that is flexible and form-fitting, yet just firm enough to provide ultimate support to the joint. The Performathane soft shell found in the multi-patented Ultra Zoom and Ultra CTS ankle braces uses body heat to form-fit to your ankle creating the most comfortable ankle brace you will ever wear.

This premium material in Ultra Ankle’s hinged-cuff braces is a thermoplastic resin that will never crack, break, or tear resulting in multi-season protection from injury causing ankle inversion and rotation. When you invest in Ultra Ankle braces, you’re investing in long-lasting ankle protection – not a short term fix that you’ll soon have to replace. Instead of buying 2-3 ankle braces to last you one sports season, you can now buy one Ultra Zoom to last you multiple years.

You Get What You Pay For

When it comes to sports medical devices, especially braces for the knee, elbow and ankle, the old adage “you get what you pay for” is completely true. When evaluating the best ankle braces for your situation, make sure to consider the latest in ankle brace research, design, and materials to choose which is best for you. A premium hinged-cuff ankle brace that provides the comfort, support, and durability you need to protect your ankles will be worth the investment every time.

Our product specialists and athletic trainers have over 40 years of experience in ankle bracing and hold the most ankle brace design patents in the world. We’re here to help and answer any questions you may have – just send us a message.

Ultra Zoom

Help prevent ankle injuries all season long.

Ultra High-5

Reinforce the ankle after a history of multiple ankle injuries

Ultra CTS

Maximize stabilization to treat acute ankle injuries

After playing softball for 13 years, I’ve spent a lot of time covering collegiate and high school softball as an athletic trainer. With all of this exposure to the sport, I have noticed a reoccurrence of certain injuries within predominately the shoulder, knee, and ankle. Below are the top three most common softball injuries, their signs and symptoms, and potential treatment methods.

Shoulder Softball Injuries

Common Injuries

Overuse, Labral Tear, Rotator Cuff Tear

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Occurrence

Overuse is the most common injury to the shoulder in softball. This could present as tendonitis, trigger points (knots) in the muscle tissue, or just general pain and fatigue. If the signs and symptoms of overuse are ignored, tears in the shoulder’s tissues start to occur. These tears typically occur in the labral or rotator cuff.

Signs & Symptoms

Overuse injuries often present with gradual onset of dull and achy pain, no history of specific incident of injury, general tenderness, and possible swelling.

Labral tears will present with deep, achy pain in the shoulder. Popping, clicking, grinding, and weakness are often felt with movement.

Rotator cuff tears will present with vague shoulder pain and decreased strength during specific movements of the arm. Clicking and popping may be heard or felt. Stiffness typically occurs with or without activity. 

Treatment

Overuse injuries typically need rest along with a little therapy and strengthening exercises. Anti-inflammatories may also be used as recommended by your sports medicine professional. Wraps and bracing may be worn (such as a shoulder spica or sully brace) if the athlete needs to continue to play.

If a tear is present, there is a small possibility that it will completely heal without surgery. Non-invasive treatment includes complete rest, rehabilitation, and therapy. Other plans of treatment would be on a case by case basis as decided by your physician.

Softball Knee Injuries

Common Injuries

ACL Tear, Meniscal Tear 

Occurrence

An ACL tear occurs when a player plants and twists the foot and leg. In softball, this can happen to a batter whose foot becomes stuck while the rest of her body is opening up as she swings or to a fielder who goes after a ball and doesn’t have time to properly set herself before making the throw and twists awkwardly on her planted foot.

A meniscal tear also involves a plant and twist mechanism but may include an applied outside force. This can happen the same way as an ACL but may also involve a collision with another player creating that outside force.

Signs and Symptoms

An ACL tear will be extremely painful at first. The athlete will hear/feel a pop or snap and then will be able to walk but the knee will feel lose and unstable. The joint will become stiff to move due to the major swelling that typically occurs.

A meniscal tear presents with deep, painful walking and the player may notice popping or clicking while using the stairs. The joint may be stiff causing decreased range of motion.

Treatment

In order to play competitively, surgery is about the only option athletes have after an ACL tear. Therapy and rehabilitation exercises will be needed before and after surgery to ensure the best results.

A meniscal tear doesn’t always require surgery. Stretching and therapy can be done to combat the discomfort the athlete may feel along with taking anti-inflammatories. Rest and ice are also helpful in conjunction with your doctor’s prescribed rehab and treatment plan.

Softball Ankle Sprains

Common Injuries

Lateral and High Ankle Sprains

Occurrence

A lateral ankle sprain occurs when an athlete lands or rolls onto the outside of the foot causing the ligaments to stretch. This can happen to a pitcher who lands on the outside of her foot, an outfielder who steps in a hole in the outfield, or a player sliding into a base and gets their foot caught.

A high ankle sprain is sustained when the foot is forced into extreme eversion (outward), forced into excessive dorsiflexion (upward), or a combination of both. This can happen to a runner whose sliding and jams her foot into the base at an awkward angle or to a fielder whose cleat gets caught in the ground as she moves for a ball.

Signs and Symptoms

A lateral and high ankle sprain will present with pain while walking with tenderness over the affected ligament. There may also be varying degrees of swelling and bruising depending on the severity of the injury.

Treatment

When it comes to twisted ankles in softball, the severity of the sprain determines the aggressiveness of the treatment. The typical protocol for an ankle sprain is rest, ice, and rehab exercises/therapy that focus on range of motion, strength, and stability

Tape or bracing may be required to keep the athlete participating while recovering. While tape may be helpful at first to apply extra compression and reduce swelling, it’s important that a player doesn’t bind their ankle in place with lace-up ankle braces or traditional taping methods in the long run. By taping and binding the ankle in place, they are working against tape while trying to run and jump – resulting in extra resistance on their joint that is actively trying to heal and/or perform.

Athletes recovering from a softball ankle injury should be wearing a hinged-cuff brace that provides full range of motion to allow the ankle to heal and regain strength while providing the stability needed to keep the ankle safe

Do you have any questions about your softball ankle injury? Let us know in the comments or send us a message and one of our certified athletic trainers will get back to you as soon as they can.






Comments

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We are all familiar with preventative knee bracing for lineman, but what about the ankle? After all, when these big guys are battling in the trenches they tend to get their ankle stepped on, fallen on and overall abused. Many times, the mechanism of injury is external rotation which causes the dreaded syndesmotic (high) ankle injury. With the amount of exposures these linemen have to ankle injuries in practice and games would it be wise for them to use both preventative knee and ankle bracing?

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During basketball season there is not a day that goes by where I don’t get a Google Alert about some NBA, WNBA or NCAA star basketball player that is out because of an ankle injury.

This season one NBA superstar has been out three times due to a reoccurring ankle injury to the same ankle. Despite years of chronic ankle instability, and many minutes of playing time lost, will this superstar wear an ankle brace when he returns? Probably not … but why is that? Here is an elite athlete that makes millions from his spectacular play that is now becoming undependable and unreliable due to a reoccurring ankle injury that (in my opinion) could be fixed with an effective and functional ankle brace.

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If you were like me as an undergrad, then you remember having different preceptors show you how they like to do things in the clinic such as types of treatments, tapings, or bracings. No doubt most of what you learned as a student has stuck with you in your own practice as a now certified athletic trainer. The only problem is how do we know that what we are doing in the clinic is actually the best method of treatment/care?

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What is your go-to ankle brace for acute ankle injuries? Don’t have one? It turns out you’re not alone.

When it comes to bracing acute ankle injuries, many AT’s end up using a walking boot because they are lacking a sufficient ankle brace alternative. Seeing this void in the marketplace led the ATs at Ultra Ankle to develop the first ankle brace specifically designed to treat/brace acute ankle injuries – the Ultra CTS (Custom Treatment System).

With the Ultra CTS ankle brace we address the two features needed most when bracing acute ankle injuries – maximum ankle and lower leg stabilization combined with reducing weight bearing pain. 

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