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Sunday, January 13, 2008

A warning about rigid sports ankle braces

Of growing popularity among athletes with weak ankles is the use of rigid or semi-rigid ankle braces, similar to the ones in the photo to the left.

While these may reduce the risk of further ankle injury by way of spraining, there may be the risk of developing serious injury to the Achilles tendon and calf muscle where the edges of the ankle brace bite into the tissue during vigorous and repetitive movement.

Such was the case of an elite netball player who presented with what she thought was a calf muscle tear. On examination, it was discovered that there was evidence of a calf muscle injury at the junction where the Achilles and the calf muscle merge. The point of injury was exactly where the upper borders of her ankle braces were biting into the back of the legs. There were clear indentations in the flesh. These indentations can be seen when you look very carefully at the photos of the legs (Double-click on the images to blow them to full size).

  • Rigid ankle braces are capable of causing injury to the calf and Achilles tendon.
  • If you have weak ankles, a rigid ankle brace may be beneficial; but should only be regarded as a temporary crutch to be used while normal ankle strength and function is restored.

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