An ankle fusion is the last thing anybody suffering from ankle arthritis wants to go through but sometimes the pain is so debilitating that it’s the only choice. An ankle fusion is a type of surgery that fuses the bones of your ankle into one piece. This allows for new bone to heal across the fused ankle joint. After surgery the patient is placed in a walking boot or cast and is instructed to remain non-weight-bearing for up to 8-12 weeks even though complete healing can take up to five months. With this aggressive surgical procedure and lengthy recovery time many ankle arthritis sufferers will exhaust all efforts searching for an alternative to ankle fusion before committing to the surgery.

Ankle arthritis occurs when the cartilage is either damaged or worn out which creates a condition where bone is rubbing on bone. With no shock-absorbing cartilage between the bones, osteophytes (bone spurs) develop and cause irritation to the joint. This may result in in ankle pain, swelling and stiffness. For this reason, patients with ankle arthritis typically find it difficult to stand or walk without being in pain. The result is limited mobility and a reduction of normal daily activities.

Through our website I correspond with ankle arthritis suffers who are facing a potential ankle fusion and are searching for an ankle brace that can help delay the surgery or eliminate it all together. For these individuals I recommend our Ultra CTS (Custom Treatment System) ankle brace. While most ankle braces are designed to help prevent excessive ankle turning, some ankle braces are designed to also reduce weight-bearing pain. For an ankle brace to reduce weight-bearing pain it must be able to “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. 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 ankle joint.

Less impact means less pain and joint irritation.

Since ankle arthritis 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 – helping control unwanted joint movement that results in 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.

Learn More About the Ultra CTS Ankle Brace →

Our goal when treating ankle osteoarthritis (OA) with an ankle brace 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 ankle 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

While ankle braces fit comfortably in most traditional athletic shoes or sneakers with a tongue and laces, there are some shoes that don’t work well with braces.

If you purchase an ankle brace and can’t fit it inside your shoe, or its uncomfortable while you’re wearing it with your shoes, it may be due to the design or style of the shoe and not the ankle brace. For that reason, it’s a good idea to know up front which shoes you should avoid when wearing your ankle braces.

The style of sneaker that works best with ankle braces have a traditional tongue and laces design so you can spread out the opening of the shoe and easily insert the ankle brace. Low-top athletic shoes work best with ankle braces because they don’t apply undue pressure over your ankle bones like a mid- or high-top shoe will.

Athletic shoe styles are changing all the time. It’s important to know how these new styles impact the fit of an ankle brace inside the shoe. In recent years athletic shoe companies have been introducing sneakers that deviate from the traditional shoe design. Rather than having a traditional tongue and laces, this new style of shoe has a collar or sleeve design that makes it almost impossible to fit the brace in the shoe. These shoes typically are of the mid- or high-top design and are hardest to fit an ankle brace inside. We have found that our customers with these newer types of shoes can usually wear an ankle brace if their foot size is above a women’s size 9 or a men’s size 7 – it all depends on how large the opening to the sleeve of the shoe is.

Athletes

If you’re an athlete who is planning to wear an ankle brace and you want it to fit in the shoe properly and be comfortable to wear for long periods of time stick with a traditional, low-top sneaker designed for the sport you play.

No high-top shoe is going to prevent an injury in sports that have a higher risk of ankle sprains (such as basketball or volleyball) where the mechanism of injury is coming down from a jump and landing on an opposing players foot at a high velocity. Therefore, we recommend wearing a low top athletic shoe with a high performance ankle brace, like the Ultra Zoom, which is designed to help prevent ankle injuries or lessen the severity should an injury occur. The Ultra Zoom will fit easily in a traditional low top sneaker and provide a comfortable fit all season long. 

Tall Work Boots

Conventional wisdom is that high-top athletic shoes or tall work boots can support the ankle more effectively than low tops primarily because the high-top shoe is higher and therefore has more leverage to grab the ankle and hold it in place. However, todays high-top sneakers are not your parent’s high-tops. These new high-top designs use flexible and stretchable materials with the goal of being comfortable to wear for long periods of time. And if the material stretches it’s probably not going to provide much in the way of ankle support. While high-top shoes are advertised to provide additional ankle support, the truth is that no shoe can support the joint and help prevent ankle injuries like an ankle brace can. When supporting your ankle with a brace, high-top shoes aren’t necessary. 

Let’s say you are a construction worker and you suffer from ankle osteoarthritis, so you like to wear a sturdy work boot to help stabilize your ankle. Let’s say recently your ankle started hurting on the job site and you’re thinking about getting an ankle brace for additional support.

Two things happen when you try to wear an ankle brace in a tall work boot:

  1. The ankle brace is very difficult to fit inside your tall work boot, or
  2. If you get the brace to fit in the boot it may not be very comfortable. This happens after you lace up the boot, which pushes the sides of the brace against the ankle bones, potentially causing pain and irritation.

In general, we recommend a low-top work shoe where you can spread out the laces enough to easily fit the brace in the shoe. Since the sides of the shoe are below the joint  there is no potential for irritation over your ankle bones. A low-top work shoe combined with a good professional ankle brace can provide more ankle support than a tall work boot worn by itself by far.

If you have questions about which ankle brace would fit best inside your athletic shoes or work boots you can send one of our athletic trainers a message. They will be able to take a look at a photo of your shoe and help you determine the right ankle brace 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

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

 

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?

When consider preventative ankle bracing for football lineman, there are a few priorities to keep in mind to ensure they are getting the best brace for their specific needs.

Compliance & Comfort

As with any sports medicine product, an ankle brace is only effective if the athlete wears it in the first place – which means athlete compliance should be a top priority. One of the biggest reasons we hear as to why athletes aren’t wearing an ankle brace recommended to them by a sports medicine professional is because it’s too uncomfortable to wear during activity. Any preventative ankle brace worn by lineman through long practices and tough games must be comfortable to wear for extended periods of time so they will actually keep it on.

Typically, when looking for a “comfortable” ankle brace, athletic trainers lean towards the lace-up, cloth type of braces and keep away from the harder, rigid plastic ankle braces. Lace-up style braces may be comfortable during activity, but they lose support rapidly, while rigid plastic braces that may provide good support are often uncomfortable, big and bulky.

In the past decade, newer materials have been developed in ankle bracing so that athletic trainers no longer must choose between low support cloth braces or rigid plastic braces. Ultra Ankle braces, for example, are designed with this newer, flexible material that uses a player’s body head to form-fit to the ankle. This new thermoplastic material provides the strength to stabilize the ankle with the comfort factor needed for athlete compliance.

Effective Hinged-Cuff Design

When athletic trainers are considering new ankle braces for their athletes, they are not only worried about the comfort level and materials but also the reasoning behind the design of the ankle brace.

When it comes to choosing an ankle brace for football lineman, you want to choose one that can help restrict excessive inversion/eversion and external rotation that causes syndesmotic ankle injuries. This priority really narrows the field down to ankle braces that have a hinged-cuff design. Where the hinge allows full plantar and dorsiflexion (which is great for getting down in your stance) the cuff encircles the posterior lower leg and provides the stability  necessary to help prevent excessive external ankle rotation.

durable enough to last an entire season

Once you’ve found a comfortable ankle brace that athletes will wear and that utilizes a design that helps prevent both low and high ankle injuries, the only thing you have left to worry about is how long that brace will last. If your ankle braces are rapidly losing support during activity and causing injuries or breaking/cracking half way through the season then they are not only terrible for your budget, but very unreliable.

The best ankle braces for athletes such as lineman must be durable enough to last an entire season and still be effective at controlling excessive joint movement. When looking into preventative ankle braces for football players, make sure to check out the product’s warranty. If a product isn’t guaranteed, then how do you know it will be effective and durable enough for your high performing athletes?

Our preventative ankle brace, the Ultra Zoom, will never crack, break or tear. It will maintain its structural integrity over multiple seasons, saving you money and giving your athletes the peace of mind. It’s on in seconds, protects consistently for hours and lasts for years.

Football Lineman & Ankle Braces

Collegiate football teams that have decided to implement preventative ankle bracing for their lineman have found this to be an effective strategy at reducing injuries. However, it takes both the will of the athletic trainers and coaches to implement and enforce the program and an ankle brace that can deliver the comfort, effectiveness and durability necessary to make the program successful. Our in-house athletic trainers work with top collegiate and pro football teams to implement ankle bracing protocols that benefit players by keeping them safely in the game while playing their high-impact sport.

If you have any questions about preventative ankle bracing for lineman or would like more information on how to implement a new ankle bracing protocol for your football team send us a message or leave us a comment below.

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

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.

When I talk about ankle braces that can help fix chronic ankle instability issues I am specifically talking about semi-rigid hinged ankle braces. These are the types of functional ankle braces that can effectively support the ankle joint over extended periods of time. These differ from lace-up style ankle braces that offer the least amount of ankle support and are not effective enough to offer extended joint support.

As all athletic trainers know – it’s not only the basketball superstars that sustain an ankle injury and refuse to wear ankle protection. Regardless of the athlete’s skill level or ankle strength, injuries are still inevitable due to the environmental factors like jumping and cutting that are an integral part of the game.

Basketball is one of the most popular sports in the United States, with an estimated 1 million high school interscholastic participants. Ankle injuries are the most common musculoskeletal injury sustained in sports such as basketball that require sudden stops and cutting movements,,,,, and these injuries impose severe monetary consequences on the US health care system., Ankle injuries can affect athletes long after they are finished playing competitive high school sports, with the development of chronic ankle instability, increased likelihood for the onset of osteoarthritis,, decreased levels of physical activity, and lower quality of life.,

Reports state that up to 70% of high school varsity basketball athletes have suffered an ankle sprain in their career, yet the number of players who wear ankle braces, either preventatively or post-injury, is still low. But why?

Here are some excuses that I’ve heard over the years from basketball players as to why, even with chronic ankle instability, they refuse to wear an ankle brace. I’ve also included some way we as athletic trainers can overcome these objections in order to help save athletes from themselves and keep them healthy, safe, and in the game.

Excuse #1: The Brace is Too Bulky

To a basketball player anything more than a sock is too bulky. Yes, some of the older designed semi-rigid ankle braces are bulky but that is because they were designed 20-30 years ago when technology was not as advanced as it is today. My recommendation for these athletes is to seek out newer ankle braces that were designed in the past 10 years. These braces will be using the latest research, materials and technology to be more organic in shape and fit the ankle better. 

However, it is important that the athlete understand that with sufficient ankle support to help correct his condition, and keep them in the game, some additional structural support is inevitable. You can’t have ankle support without a structured support mechanism.

At Ultra Ankle, we reduced the bulk of a “structured support mechanism” by using an advanced resin to make the shell of our ankle braces more flexible. This flexible soft shell design uses a player’s body heat to form-fit to the ankle, which helps reduce that unwanted bulky look and feel of semi-rigid plastic braces. When the flexible shell takes the shape of the joint it can control the joint as much or more than some rigid plastic ankle braces, making the extra height or bulk unnecessary.

Excuse #2: The Brace Will Restrict My Performance

Different ankle braces offer different levels of restriction. The only time this restriction is related to performance is when a brace keeps an ankle from functioning in it’s normal range of motion – in which case an ankle brace is working against your ankle and therefore inhibiting your performance. In order to protect the joint, without impacting performance, an ankle brace should only restrict excessive inversion, eversion and rotation.

With a hinged ankle brace there should be no restriction of performance because the brace allows full plantar and dorsiflexion. Yes, some excessive lateral mobility might be limited due to the support necessary to stabilize the ankle and help prevent reinjury. In this case, it’s important to sell the athlete on the fact that the hinged ankle brace offers them unlimited ankle ROM to run and jump without restriction while still protecting their ankle.

The only style of ankle brace that is known to negatively effect performance is the lace-up ankle brace because if you bind up a joint it’s going to have a negative effect on ROM and strength. As shown in a study conducted by the University of South Alabama, “wearing a lace-up ankle brace negatively affects ankle joint motion and muscle function by significantly decreasing plantar flexion-dorsiflexion ROM across the velocity spectrum and by significantly decreasing muscle torque, work, and power.”

Excuse #3: The Ankle Brace is Uncomfortable

Of all the excuses I hear from basketball players, this can be a legitimate negative to wearing a semi-rigid hinged ankle brace. Mainly because some of the designs that are still being worn by athletes are old and outdated. Researching newer ankle bracing technologies and advanced designs should help alleviate some of the discomfort they are experiencing.

If an athlete still feels that ankle braces are uncomfortable, regardless of how new the technology is, it’s important for them to remember that, just like their basketball shoes, ankle braces will have a break in period to adjust to the ankle. A hinged ankle brace will feel tremendously different after 30 minutes of usage compared to when you first apply the brace because it needs to find its axis with the ankle joint to achieve ultimate comfort.

The worst thing you can do with any hinged brace, knee or ankle, is judge its comfort level when first applied. Nine times out of ten this is when the athlete refuses to wear the brace – not knowing the brace will feel significantly different if they would just give it 20-30 minutes to heat up and become aligned with the ankle. Typically, this is where the athletic trainer must step in and explain the break-in period that is necessary with any new peace of athletic gear. This, along with the features of the technology and why it is more beneficial for them to prevent additional injuries instead of getting re-injured and sitting on the sidelines, is helpful in increasing athlete compliance.

As mentioned early in this blog, with todays technology and design software we can develop ankle braces that are not only less bulky, but more comfortable as well. Elite ankle braces are designed to be more organic in shape, resembling the anatomy of the ankle. We can design some areas to be more flexible to form around the malleolus, and other areas to be more rigid to provide the necessary support.

When evaluating different ankle brace designs, seek out a brace that looks like the ankle looks and functions like the ankle functions. With this type of ankle brace, and the suggestions I provided in this blog, your basketball players may be more willing to wear a hinged ankle brace which will in turn provide them the support they need to safely stay in the game.

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

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. 

 

Stabilizing the Ankle and Lower Leg

Let’s say your basketball player comes down from a rebound and lands on another player’s foot, potentially resulting in a grade two ankle sprain. Or your starting tackle gets his ankle rolled up on and now you’re treating his syndesmotic ankle injury. A typical plan of action is to put the player in a walking boot for a day or two to calm things down…but then what?

First things first, you must address the stability issue before the athlete can transition out of the walking boot.

The Ultra CTS has a dual hinged-cuff design that is taller than other braces to compress and stabilize the tibia and fibula. This upper cuff section is made of a flexible soft-shell material (Performathane) which allows the brace to securely encircle the lower leg and ankle providing maximum stability. Our proprietary Performathane® material is made of the highest quality thermoplastic resin – which means it is able to absorb the body heat of the athlete during activity to help it create a form-fitting, secure fit.

When it comes to recovering from an injury, the longer the athlete is in the walking boot the more their ankle strength and ROM are negatively impacted. For this reason, it’s important to have the Ultra CTS® acute injury ankle brace as a part of your transition protocol. With this ankle brace, athletes are able to transition back to activity much sooner and safer than if they went straight from a walking boot to no brace or a lace-up support.

Now, how do you address the weight bearing pain?

Reducing Weight Bearing Pain

The second unique feature of the Ultra CTS design is the ability to unload the ankle to reduce weight bearing pain. We designed the foot section of the Ultra CTS using a semi-rigid material that will absorb some of the impact and/or energy that would normally be directed into the sore and injured ankle. With this foot section in place, the energy bypasses the ankle and is applied to the lower leg. This reduces the impact to the sore ankle (resulting in the athlete feeling less pain) which means they can transition out of the walking boot to a fully functional ankle brace they can wear for the remainder of their rehabilitation.

At this point many athletes will opt to wear the Ultra CTS the remainder of the season because it’s comfortable and they don’t have any fear of reinjury. However, if the athlete would prefer a more mobile ankle brace, they can quickly detach the upper PerformaFit® upper cuff section to transition into a low-profile activity brace. Either way, you now have options when bracing and treating acute ankle injuries that will safely get your athletes back to full participation faster.

Treat In-Game Ankle Injuries

Aside from being an important part of your treatment and rehab protocol, the Ultra CTS is also widely used by collegiate and pro athletic trainers to treat in-game ankle injuries.

After an athlete suffers an in-game ankle injury, most of the time the only thing preventing them from returning to the game is their weight bearing pain. Tape and lace-ups cannot unload the ankle and reduce weight bearing pain – but the Ultra CTS can. Athletic trainers, especially in football, are consistently utilizing the Ultra CTS on in-game ankle injuries (when appropriate) to allow the player to return to competition during the same game.

Are you one of the many athletic trainers prepared for acute and/or in-game ankle injuries by having an Ultra CTS in your kit? If not, let us know what it would take to get you to try it out by sending us an email at support@ultraankle.com or leaving us a note in the comments below.

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