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

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.

Softball Shoulder Injuries

Common Injuries

Overuse, Labral Tear, Rotator Cuff Tear

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.

Post written by guest author Lauren Dybwad, ATC.

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

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