February 15, 2008 / 6:01 PM / 12 years ago

Ankle braces curb sprains in volleyball players

Russia's Ekaterina Gamova (11), Natalia Alimova (3) and Natalya Safronova (7) jump to block against Poland's Anna Podolec during their women's final volleyball match of the 2008 Olympic Games European Qualification in the western city of Halle January 20, 2008. Ankle braces can help protect collegiate female volleyball players from sprains, a new study shows. REUTERS/Ina Fassbender

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Ankle braces can help protect collegiate female volleyball players from sprains, a new study shows.

After University of Pennsylvania volleyball players were mandated to wear a padded brace on each ankle, just one ankle injury occurred in the course of seven seasons.

“From our data, it appears that the use of such a brace is an effective way to decrease the incidence of ankle injuries in this active but vulnerable group of athletes,” conclude Dr. Brian J. Sennett of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia and colleagues.

Ankle injuries are common among female volleyball players, accounting for up to 36% of all injuries in these athletes, Sennett and his team note in their report in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Penn players have been wearing the Active Ankle Braces, made by EBI Inc. of Parsippany, New Jersey, since 1998. To evaluate whether the braces had actually been effective, the researchers compared rates of ankle injuries at their university to data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for female volleyball players.

There were 797 ankle injuries during 811,710 NCAA practices or games from 1988 to 2005, translating to an injury rate of 0.98 for every 1,000 exposures. For the Penn players, there was just a single ankle injury during 13,500 games or practices during those seven seasons, for an injury rate of 0.07 per 1,000 exposures.

Nearly half of the 132 Penn players in the study had suffered ankle injuries before starting to play college volleyball, Sennett and his team note.

“Although our data are statistically significant and may change current thinking about orthosis use in these elite athletes, further investigation is warranted,” they write. This research could include comparison of the effectiveness of various types of braces, the researchers add, as well as how they affect performance.

SOURCE: American Journal of Sports Medicine, February 2008.

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