Ankle Bracing Scores Big In High School Athletics

Ankle Bracing Scores Big In High School Athletics

Nothing New?

Ankle injuries in high school sports such as football and basketball may be nothing new, but they remain a concern for athletes, coaches, athletic trainers and parents alike. Ankle sprains and strains are common among these young, growing athletes who leap, pivot, pounce and push themselves—but what can be done?

The expertise of athletic trainers—and the technology available to them—has come a long way since traditional taping and R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression and elevation.) While those tools remain important components of prevention, protection and recovery, the options available for today’s adolescent athletes have advanced significantly in recent years.

Prevent & Protect

Rather than treating an athlete after the fact, could regularly wearing an ankle brace actually prevent injury? There had been few studies to evaluate the long-term effects of prophylactic ankle-brace use during a sports season, but evidence is mounting and recent studies show that use of an ankle brace during sports can make a significant difference for these young athletes.

Bracing for Football1

In one study, researchers wanted to know if lace-up ankle braces reduce the incidence and severity of lower extremity injuries sustained by high school football players.

They randomly assigned 2,081 players from 50 high schools to a braced or control group for the 2010 football season. Athletic trainers recorded brace compliance, athlete-exposures and injuries. The brace selected for the study was the DonJoy Ankle Stabilizing Brace.

The result? “Players who used lace-up ankle braces had a lower incidence of acute ankle injuries but no difference in the incidence of acute knee or other lower extremity injuries. Braces did not reduce the severity of ankle, knee, or other lower extremity injuries.”

The acute ankle injury rate was 0.48 in the braced players versus 1.12 in the control group, while the severity of injuries was the same.



Bracing for Basketball2

In another study of high school basketball players, researchers wanted to measure the impact of ankle brace use, over a season, on dynamic postural control and functional tests.

The study looked at 21 healthy high school basketball players (13 girls, 8 boys) who underwent multiple tests in random order, including:

  • Star Excursion Balance Test for posteromedial, medial and anteromedial directions.
  • Three functional tests of single-leg crossover hop, single-leg vertical jump and single-leg 6-m hop for time.

After being pretested without the brace, the athletes wore the brace on both limbs for the 16-week competitive season, with follow-up evaluations at mid- and post-competition season. Researchers found that wearing the ankle brace during sports significantly improved dynamic postural control and functional performance for the athletes.



Preventing Injury & Reinjury3,4

In a third study, a trial was undertaken to determine if lace-up ankle braces reduce the incidence and severity of acute first-time and recurrent ankle injuries in high school basketball players.

Researchers randomly assigned 1,460 male and female basketball players from 46 high schools to a braced or control group for the season. Athletic trainers recorded compliance, athlete exposures and injuries.

Researchers found: “Use of lace-up ankle braces reduced the incidence but not the severity of acute ankle injuries in male and female high school basketball athletes both with and without a previous history of an ankle injury.”

Acute ankle injury was 0.47 in the braced group versus 1.41 in the control group. Severity of ankle injuries was similar in both groups, but for players with a previous ankle injury, the incidence of acute ankle injury was 0.83 in the braced group versus 1.79 in the control group. For players who did not report a previous ankle injury, the incidence of acute ankle injury was 0.40 in the braced group and 1.35 in the control group.

For a published report, researchers posed the clinical question: “Do prophylactic ankle braces reduce the incidence of acute ankle injuries in adolescent athletes?”

The clinical scenario was that a large number of injuries sustained by high school athletes are ankle injuries. They wanted to determine if ankle bracing might be an effective and efficient method to reduce those injuries. The clinical takeaway? “There is moderate evidence to support the use of prophylactic ankle braces in adolescent athletes, particularly those who participate in football and basketball, to reduce the incidence of acute ankle injuries.”

Not Just Kids Play5

More and more studies, research and reviews show that ankle bracing significantly reduces initial and recurrent injury as well as reinjury in athletes, and not just for teens – ankle bracing helps recreational and competitive adult athletes in basketball and soccer, for instance, as well as military trainees and adults with previous history of ankle injury.

“Semirigid and laced ankle braces have significantly reduced the incidence of initial and recurrent ankle sprain injuries in athletic and military samples. With few exceptions, these braces do not appear to affect functional performance adversely. The prophylactic use of semirigid ankle braces appears warranted to reduce the incidence of initial and, in particular, recurrent ankle sprain injuries for individuals who participate in activities that have the highest risk for these injuries.”

The Bottom Line6

Finally, while some may argue that taping is just as effective as bracing, one study evaluated the overall cost of taping versus purchase of an ankle brace, and found that prophylactic bracing can actually save money for an athletic program, while also protecting the athletes from ankle injury.

“The time required to tape an athlete averaged 67 seconds per ankle, resulting in a total of 97 minutes per ankle during an entire season, and the average cost to tape each ankle during an entire season was greater than the cost of the commercially available brace. The projected cost savings for an athletic program using prophylactic bracing could be substantial when compared with the use of prophylactic taping of the ankle.”

While there was a monetary savings in bracing versus taping, there was no statistically significant difference in the incidence of ankle sprains between the two groups.



Product Options from

DonJoy and the DJO Global Family of Brands

DonJoy Stabilizing Pro Ankle Brace

DonJoy Stabilizing Pro Ankle Brace

A60 Ankle Support

Velocity ES - on ankle

Velocity ES (Extra Support)



  1. McGuine TA1, Hetzel S, Wilson J, Brooks A. Am J Sports Med. 2012 Jan;40(1):49-57.
  2. Crockett NJ1, Sandrey MA. J Sport Rehabil. 2015 Aug;24(3):252-60.
  3. McGuine TA1, Brooks A, Hetzel S. Am J Sports Med. 2011 Sep;39(9):1840-8.
  4. Farwell KE1, Powden CJ, Powell MR, McCarty CW, Hoch MC. J Sport Rehabil. 2013 May;22(2):137-42.
  5. Gross MT1, Liu HY. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2003 Oct;33(10):572-7.
  6. Mickel TJ1, Bottoni CR, Tsuji G, Chang K, Baum L, Tokushige KA. J Foot Ankle Surg. 2006 Nov-Dec;45(6):360-5.