St. Ignatius College Preparatory

San Francisco’s Jesuit School since 1855


As awareness of injury prevention is heightened, coaches may decide to implement policies requiring certain equipment that they feel will reduce the risk of injury in their sport. For may years, football has required intereior linemen to wear knee braces to protect them "down in the trenches"; if you have seen a pile up at the line of scrimmage, you would never question the decision to brace. (Although some players and coaches are now not so sure. See below.) 

But more and more, non-contact sports coaches are requiring their players to brace, especially ankles for basketball and volleyball players. Some programs decide to go this route because taping is not time or cost efficient (and some argue not effective after about 30 minutes anyway). Others say that a brace will reduce the risk of turing an ankle and/or reduce the severity of a sprain if a turn occurs. The jury is out on that theory, for studies on high top shoes have yet to confirm the same supposition. 

My position is that a healthy joint should not be placed in a restrictive device that limits its normal range of motion unless a preexisting condition (that is a sprained or torn ligament) calls for extra support. An ankle whose range of motion is limited will place extra and/or abnormal stress on other parts of the lower extremities in the act of running, cutting, jumping and landing. Stress to the foot and knee especially are of concern, as they already endure plenty of stress in their normal duties. Moreso, these stresses could lead to other conditions that could be as debilitating as the ankle sprain you were trying to prevent (e.g. stress fractures in the foot and tendonitis in the knee or worse, weakened or injured ACL).

I would like to present some arguments for and against instituting a mandatory bracing policy that may help shed some light on the issue. Please keep an open mind to these arguments and let me know what you think.

Note: both of the ankle brace arguments are from the USA Volleyball web site, each from a different doctor or specialist. The knee brace article focuses mainly on the Tennessee Titans of the NFL but contains statements from several orthpedic surgeons, athletes and coaches on the issue of bracing.

Youth athletes in braces.

North Carolina study on youth athletes wearing braces.

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