The ankle remains the primary site of injury in high school and collegiate basketball for both genders. Regardless of an athlete’s physical conditioning, it’s challenging to prevent ankle injuries. Such injuries often happen in scenarios where players go up for a rebound and land on another player’s foot, or they are cutting to the basket and mistakenly step off another player’s shoe. These contacts can lead to the common inversion ankle sprain, which happens when the ankle is forced to rotate inward excessively.
Inversion ankle sprains can stretch, and sometimes tear, the ligaments in the joint, leading to extended bench time that could range from a few hours to weeks, depending on the injury’s severity. Even after resting to allow the ankle to heal, the ligaments remain somewhat stretched, making you prone to future ankle injuries. Over time, recurring ankle injuries can progressively stretch the ligaments, causing the joint to destabilize.
The best approach to interrupt or slow down this cycle of recurring ankle injuries is to wear a preventive ankle brace. The right ankle brace should be determined by evaluating the player’s position and their injury history.
Basketball Ankle Injuries by Position
Forwards and Centers are the positions most prone to ankle injuries. These players are constantly fighting for rebounds, which makes them susceptible to ankle injuries. As these are usually the largest players on the court, the forces involved when landing on another player’s foot can cause severe ankle injuries.
Guards handle the ball the most, which means they frequently make explosive cuts combined with significant acceleration/deceleration. This puts considerable stress on their ankle ligaments and tendons, leading to injuries if the load surpasses the ligament’s tolerance.
Evaluating Injury History
Understanding your specific position’s injury susceptibility is the first step to choosing the right ankle brace for basketball. The subsequent step involves determining the balance between the amount of support you need and the mobility you want.
Today, and in years past, preventative ankle braces are preferred if you’ve had no previous ankle injuries (or very few) and want to avoid future sprains. Most offer moderate stability and maximum mobility. On the other hand, if you have had a severe ankle injury and aim to return to competition quickly, an ankle brace providing maximum stability with minimal mobility is recommended. However, as we cover preventive ankle braces we will touch on an a revolutionary ankle brace that provides both maximum stability and maximum mobility.
Preventative Basketball Ankle Braces
Three main types of preventive ankle braces are currently available:
- Soft Shell
While ankle taping is another method of injury prevention, it’s proven much less effective in providing sustained support throughout a game or practice. Therefore, we will only compare the three preventative ankle brace types.
Lace-Up Ankle Braces
These braces, first introduced in 1887, restrict all ankle motion. While lace-ups may initially seem supportive due to their tight fit, they can lose support rapidly as they resist the ankle’s natural range of motion. Lace-up braces bind the ankle in the neutral position, which can hinder performance. Research has shown that hinged ankle braces provide the necessary range of motion, unlike lace-up types, enhancing strength and performance.
Rigid Ankle Braces
Rigid ankle braces consist of hard plastic with a hinge that allows full ankle range of motion (think Active Ankle T2). These braces typically have a limited usage period due to their bulkiness and discomfort over extended periods. However, they do offer good ankle support, protecting against basic “low” ankle sprains or inversion injuries. They do not, however, protect against “high” ankle sprains, which can be extremely painful and take longer to recover from.
Soft Shell Ankle Braces
The newest addition to the market, soft shell ankle braces, specifically the Ultra Ankle® Ultra Zoom®, use Performathane®, a flexible shell that custom-fits to the ankle using body heat. This custom fit offers a comfortable and low-profile ankle brace, which is easily worn for extended periods and fits well in a traditional tongue-and-lace basketball shoe. The Ultra Zoom’s hinged-cuff design restricts excessive ankle turning and twisting, thus preventing both low and high ankle injuries. Soft shell ankle braces, like the Ultra Zoom, are ideal for basketball players looking to prevent ankle injuries or those with mild to moderate ankle instability, while still keeping the mobility they need to stay competitive on the court.
Why Ultra Ankle Braces Stand Out
Ultra Zoom® braces outperform their competition by offering a superior combination of protection, comfort, and performance enhancement. They incorporate advanced design features that adapt to your ankle’s shape and movement, resulting in a better, more comfortable fit. This design reduces the risk of recurring injuries by providing targeted support where it’s needed most, without restricting natural motion. Moreover, Ultra Zoom® braces utilize Performathane® technology, offering a durable brace that lasts through multiple sports seasons. They are therefore a superior choice for basketball players who aim to prevent injuries while maintaining peak performance. If you have any further questions about our the Ultra Zoom or any other Ultra Ankle product, please reach out to one of our certified athletic trainers.