Should you wear an ankle brace to avoid a sprained ankle? Lace-up ankle braces, which have typically been used by athletes after an ankle sprain to help return to sports, might have a role in injury prevention. A new study presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s Annual Meeting in San Diego looks at the effectiveness of these braces in high school basketball.

Study of ankle braces and preventing sprained ankles

Timothy A. McGuine, PhD, ATC and other researchers from the University of Wisconsin looked at 1,460 basketball players aged 13-18 from 46 high schools. They divided male and females players into two groups – one that wore lace-up ankle braces and a control group that did not wear them. Among players with no previous ankle injury, the rate of ankle injuries was 0.47 per 1000 exposures in the braced group and 1.41 per 1000 exposures in the control group. Among athletes with a history of ankle injury, the rate of injury was 0.83 per 1000 exposures and 1.79 per 1000 in the control group.

“We wanted to see whether the use of lace-up ankle braces is a viable option for injury prevention in high school basketball players,” said McGuine. “Basketball has one of the higher rates for ankle injuries, and this study illustrates how a simple brace can help keep an athlete on the court.”

Brace for a sprained ankle

This study is encouraging in that it suggests that lace-up ankle braces might decrease the risk of a sprained ankle and fractures with some sports activities. They might be especially useful in athletes with a history of ankle sprain. It is hard to definitively recommend these braces for all athletes, as it is hard to know if these braces lead to injuries to the knee or other parts of the lower extremity by protecting the ankle. But at least it is one step to try to decrease a frequent injury in youth sports.