On September 10, 2016 Assumption (Louisville) girls’ volleyball coach Ron Kordes won the 1,000th match of his career in the semifinals of the Ultra Ankle® Louisville Invitational Volleyball Tournament.
We recently spoke with Coach Kordes, who is also the Club Director of Louisville-based volleyball club KIVA, to congratulate him on his career milestone and also to ask him his professional opinion on ankle injuries and volleyball ankle braces.
When it comes to product innovation, many times a product cannot advance until new materials or manufacturing methods are invented and/or advanced. This is certainly true for ankle bracing, as the technologies that were developed for the Ultra Zoom® ankle brace from Ultra Ankle® did not exist until they were specifically designed, tested, and proven to help prevent ankle injuries better than any other brace on the market.
The Ultra Zoom® ankle brace from Ultra Ankle® is a one of a kind ankle brace in terms of design and technology due to it’s patented flexible Performathane® soft shell, custom PerformaFit® 3D padding system, and durable hinged-cuff design – three features you will not find on any other brace.
How Does This Work?
For an ankle brace, or any brace to function at its most effective level it has to mirror the shape of the anatomy, which will require the brace to form, or custom-fit to the shape of the joint. A custom-fit ankle brace is more comfortable, lower profile and more supportive. However, to achieve these custom-fit design goals new materials had to be developed.
Ultra Ankle® embarked on a five-year project to develop materials that would make it possible to design an ankle brace that would be incredibly comfortable, offer long-lasting ankle support, and have multi-season durability. The result is the Ultra Zoom® ankle brace with Performathane® and PerformaFit® technologies.
Outer Flexible Shell, Inner Custom Fit
So what exactly is Performathane® and PerformaFit? Good question.
Performathane® – The material that composes the soft outer shell of the Ultra Zoom® and uses an athlete’s body heat to form or custom-fit to the ankle. Typically, it takes a practice or two for the brace shell to fully form to the shape of the joint. Not only does the Performathane® shell form to the ankle, but it was also engineered to never break, crack or tear offering multi-season durability.
PerformaFit® – This padding system is another Ultra Ankle® invention that adds to the custom-fit properties of the Ultra Zoom®. A specially designed foam formulation allows the padding system to take the shape of the ankle joint and maintain that shape over time. The PerformaFit® padding system will maintain its cushioning properties throughout an entire sports season.
The Highest Level of Ankle Injury Prevention
Together the Performathane® soft shell and the PerformaFit® padding system offer new levels of comfort, support and durability that older ankle brace designs cannot match. If you’re interested in learning more about our technology, or want to know If the Ultra Zoom® ankle brace is right for you send us a message! Our athletic trainers would be happy to answer your questions.
When I speak to athletic trainers about ankle bracing technology I find there is minimal to no education about the subject taught in the curriculum. Understanding the basics of ankle brace design is paramount for choosing the right brace for the specific ankle condition. For example, let’s say you have an athlete with a syndesmotic ankle injury – which would be the best stabilizing option for that condition? a) lace-up brace b) tape c) hinged brace d) hinged-cuff brace
If you guessed d) hinged-cuff ankle brace you are correct! The syndesmotic ankle injury is caused by excessive external ankle rotation, so to be successful in bracing this type of injury the brace must be designed to limit ankle rotation as well as inversion and eversion. Only one ankle brace design will limit this range of motion – the hinged-cuff design.
A hinged-cuff designed ankle brace has a hinge that will allow full plantar and dorsiflexion, and a cuff that encircles the lateral part of the lower leg. The “cuff” provides a rigid connection between both sides of the brace stabilizing the ankle in both the horizontal and vertical plane. The first hinged-cuff ankle brace design was introduced in 2000 and has rapidly gained popularity with both sports medicine professionals and athletes since it came on the market.
If your answer was to b) tape the ankle to remedy the syndesmotic ankle injury, you’re probably not alone. Taping can help compress and stabilize the tib/fib reducing the stress on the soft tissue, but this seems to provide only a temporary relief as the tape will stretch out and lose its integrity. The cuff portion of the hinged-cuff brace design can provide more long lasting tib/fib compression combined with rotational stability.
Next Question: Your athlete has an acute ankle injury with weight bearing pain – what ankle brace design do you select to reduce weight bearing pain? a) lace-up brace b) hinged brace c) hinged-cuff brace
For this condition the brace must absorb the vertical impact or energy, bypass the sore ankle, and apply that energy to the lower leg. I call this process ankle unloading or offloading because the ankle endures less impact therefore the weight bearing pain is reduced. Using a semi-rigid hinged or hinged-cuff ankle brace design can reduce weight bearing pain by providing the structural integrity to absorb painful impact; soft bottom lace-up designs cannot unload the ankle. If you guessed either option B or option C you would be correct in this scenario.
Which type of ankle brace design can provide the most long-lasting ankle protection? a) lace-up brace b) hinged brace c) hinged-cuff brace
Isn’t the point of wearing an ankle brace to provide a level of support over the course of a practice or game, perhaps 2-3 hours? When I introduced the first hinged ankle brace in 1989 the biggest push back from ATC’s was, “how does all this free range of motion support anything?” Of course no one asks that question today because we all know if a brace can move with normal joint range of motion then the straps stay securely in place maintaining long-lasting ankle protection. Every hinged knee brace is designed upon that same principle.
Therefore, the answer is again both option B and option C – both the hinged and hinged-cuff ankle brace can provide the most long-lasting ankle protection.
Last question: What is the main reason athletes don’t like wearing ankle braces? a) not comfortable b) lack of durability c) hard to apply
While all answers may be correct depending on the athlete, throughout my 30 years of developing ankle braces I have learned that no matter how much support an ankle brace provides if it’s a) not comfortable no athlete is going to wear it. The road to ankle brace stardom is littered with ankle braces that provide great support, but no athlete is going to wear them because they are too big, bulky, and uncomfortable. This point led us to develop a new type of ankle brace that is neither a rigid plastic nor a soft flexible fabric, but instead uses an advanced thermoplastic resin called Performathane® that uses body heat to custom-fit to the ankle. The result is an ankle brace that is incredibly comfortable to wear over long periods of time, durable enough to last three sports seasons, and doesn’t restrict athletic performance.
As for the quiz – how did you do? If you’ve never worked with Ultra Ankle® before and have yet to try hinged-cuff ankle braces, reach out to us and see if you qualify to receive a free ankle brace sample for your team. If your players have worn, or are currently wearing, Ultra Ankle® products we would love to hear your thoughts about the hinged-cuff brace design and what we can do to make this a product a staple for every athletic trainer.
Have you noticed that most all ankle braces are made with either fabric in the case of lace-ups, or rigid plastics in the case of stirrup or hinged designs?
When designing a modern preventative ankle brace to replace the century old lace-up corset design we were faced with some overwhelming design challenges. We did not want to use a fabric material because fabric stretches and loosens the longer you wear it. Plus it collects bacteria and can develop an unpleasant odor, even after laundering. However, making a low-profile, tight-fitting preventative ankle brace using a rigid plastic would be significantly uncomfortable. Our design goal was to develop a bridge material between fabric and rigid plastics.
We developed an advanced thermoplastic resin material called Performathane® custom-fit soft shell technology which will change everything you think about ankle bracing.
The unique properties of a thermoplastic resin is that it will flex and form to the ankle with body heat generated during a practice or game. This unique forming property drove us to develop the first preventative ankle brace that will custom-fit to the ankle, the Ultra Zoom®.
Just after a brief break-in period of a practice or two, the Performathane soft shell form-fits to the ankle. The benefits of a custom-fit ankle brace are significant. It’s incredibly comfortable, lower profile, tighter fitting and more supportive because it takes the shape of the ankle.
Now you have a choice when it comes to recommending a preventative ankle brace to your athletes. Corset lace-ups restrict range of motion, loose support rapidly, collect bacteria and stink, are a pain to fit and they wear out quickly. Contrast this century old lace-up design to the advanced Ultra Zoom®, a custom-fit low profile performance ankle brace that allows full range of motion for long lasting ankle support. The Ultra Zoom® is easy to apply, fits in any athletic shoe and offers multi-season durability which makes it a great value over lace-ups.