Although there’s a lot of discussion amongst sports medical experts about the pros and cons of using ankle braces and knee supports (such as Don Joy Knee braces),ultimately it is a decision each athlete and his parent will have to make on his own.
What do the experts say?
Many experts feel that ankle and knee braces are beneficial for youth athletes. A study from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health concluded that high school basketball players who wore stabilizing lace-up ankle braces had 68 percent fewer injuries than athletes who did not.
The study, done on 14-18 year olds strongly advised that young athletes who had suffered from a previous injury or sprain should wear a brace to prevent an injury from recurring. It also seemed to show that every teen should wear an ankle brace to prevent injuries in the first place.
What does this mom say?
I’ve heard the concerns from experts who say that ankle braces make for weaker ankles in the long run. And I know that I’m not a physical trainer or an expert in the field of athletic injuries, but I am a mom with extensive sports parenting experience. I’ve mothered my kids through a lot of injuries over the past 20 years and that has made me a brace supporter.
I’ve had three kids play sports since they were very small. They didn’t wear braces when they were young, but when our two serious basketball players had their first ankle sprains, the school’s physical trainer strongly urged us to invest in ankle braces for our kids.
I am so glad we did. Several times when our basketball players–and my volleyball playing daughter–tweaked ankles, the braces kept the injury from being much worse. Once when my son sprained his ankle in a basketball game, the doctor told us that if he had not been wearing ankle braces, he would have broken his ankle instead of spraining it.
So, from where I’m sitting, ankle braces were well worth the investment.
More facts about ankle and knee braces
Before you make your decision on whether to brace or not, consider these additional facts:
- You can start your child wearing ankle braces at a younger-than-high-school age. The University of Wisconsin study pointed out that as long as there is a size of brace that fits the child well,it is probably appropriate.
- If you are debating on whether braces should be worn at practices as well as game, the UW study recommends that for a sport like basketball, braces should definitely be worn for both because athletes are just as likely to roll ankles in practice as they are in games.
- Remember that wearing a brace does not take the place of good rehab and working with a physical therapist.
- Braces can be worn in other sports like football or volleyball, if the athlete’s play is not affected and if the athletic trainer determines that it is a good idea.
- Ankle sprain rates double in the 1-2 years following a sprain. In fact, 30-59% of people who sprain their ankle develop chronic instability. Since several studies have shown that bracing does reduce the risk of re-injury, you may want to make invest in those braces.
- Ankle and knee braces should never be a replacement for muscle strengthening. When our kids injured ankles and knees, the trainers suggested several exercises to help them strengthen the muscles around their joints. A combination of bracing with specific exercises will help reduce risk of re-injury.
- Knee braces do not seem to work well to stop knee injuries from happening. But they can be used as support to stabilize the knee after surgery or injury. Always get a doctor’s advice on whether to use a knee brace to help with recovery and rehab.
Are ankle braces right for your child? That is a decision that only you can make, but be sure you weigh the facts before deciding. My guess is that after your child suffers his first ankle injury–whether it’s a break or sprain–you’ll be bracing up.
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