UW Health Sports Medicine to Study Ankle Sprains

Physical therapist working on patients' ankleMADISON - Quick. What's the most common injury among high school football players?


Nope, it's not a concussion.


It's actually an ankle sprain.


The 1.1 million kids who play high school football in the United States suffer more than 81,000 ankle sprains each year.

Football-related ankle sprains account for a whopping 25 percent of those injuries. Obviously, that's of great concern to players, parents and coaches, none of whom want to see their athletes walking around on crutches, missing playing time.

In a first-of-a-kind study, Tim McGuine, University of Wisconsin sports medicine researcher and athletic trainer, and Dr. Alison Brooks, an assistant professor of sports medicine at UW School of Medicine and Public Health, will examine whether using ankle braces during football practice and games will help to reduce the incidence of ankle sprains.

The study, set to begin in August, will involve 51 Wisconsin high schools from across the state, and more than 2,250 football players. The control group will be given stabilizing, lace-up braces to wear in practices and games. The other group will practice and play as they normally would, with some athletes wearing braces and some not. At the end of the season, Brooks and McGuine will compare the number and severity of ankle sprains between the groups.

"This is the largest-scale study of this type that's ever been attempted," says McGuine, who notes that he and his colleagues will be recruiting athlete participants from a diverse mix of urban and rural settings, as well as public and private schools. "Whether they're playing football in Milwaukee, Hudson, Janesville or Phillips, the benefit to Wisconsin athletes could be huge."

Especially if the study results provide new strategies for preventing ankle sprains, an injury that is notoriously cumulative.

"If a football player hurts his ankle once, the risk of future injury is much, much higher," says McGuine. "Some studies place the chance of a second sprain at 70 percent. And a lot of these athletes go on to have serious osteoarthritis issues as adults."

According to Dr. John Wilson, a UW sports medicine physician who's also on the research team, the response to the study has been enthusiastic.


"We're really grateful for the support and cooperation we've seen so far, especially from the coaches and school-based athletic trainers," says Wilson. "That's crucial for our success."

Recruitment for the study officially begins on Sunday, May 2. For more information or to sign up an athlete, contact Tim McGuine at (608) 263-8786, Dr. Alison Brooks at (608) 263-6477 or Dr. John Wilson at (608) 845-9531.

The study is funded by a grant from the UW Sports Medicine department.


Date Published: 04/30/2010

News tag(s):  sportsresearchm alison brooksjohn j wilson

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