UW Sports Medicine: Ankle Braces Keep High School Football Players in the Game

UW Health Sports Medicine: football playerMadison, Wisconsin – High-school football players who wear lace-up ankle braces may sustain significantly fewer ankle injuries than those who don't, according to a new study by the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

The study, published this week in the online version of The American Journal of Sports Medicine, shows that the use of lace-up ankle braces reduced the incidence of acute ankle injuries by 61 percent in high school football players, regardless of their age, level of competition, body mass index, shoe height and cleat design. The study is the first of its kind to prospectively examine the efficacy of lace-up ankle braces to prevent both first-time and recurrent ankle injuries in adolescent football players.

"With nearly 1.2 million students playing high-school football in the United States alone, the health impact of this research can be far-reaching," says Tim McGuine, UW Sports Medicine researcher, athletic trainer and lead author. "If you extrapolate our data, the use of lace-up ankle braces has the potential to decrease the number of ankle injuries in high-school football players nationwide by 39,000, or two to three fewer ankle injuries per football squad."

For the study, UW researchers gathered data on a total of 2,081 football players from 50 high schools across Wisconsin during the 2010 football season. The players, all of whom voluntarily enrolled in the study, were randomly assigned to be part of a group that used braces (993 athletes) or a control group that did not (1,088 students). Players in the control group sustained 69 acute ankle injuries, while players who wore the braces suffered only 27 similar injuries during the same amount of exposures. An exposure is defined as any coach-directed competition, practice, or conditioning session.


Researchers found no significant difference in the severity of injuries between the two groups and no relationship between the type of surface (synthetic or natural grass) and the incidence of ankle injury.


Study co-author Dr. John Wilson, assistant professor of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, says the research has significant implications beyond just the sport of football.

"Our findings suggest that wearing lace-up ankle braces may not only help keep young football players healthy but could potentially save them thousands of dollars in future health care costs as well," says Wilson, who also serves as team physician for the UW football team.

Previous research has shown that each ankle injury costs approximately $11,900 per athlete to treat in both direct and indirect costs, including medical bills, effect on quality-of-life and legal liability. The total comprehensive cost for all ankle injuries sustained from high school football in the United States is approximately $581 million, according to the US Consumer Products Safety Commission Directorate of Economic Analysis. Nationally, it is estimated that 24 percent (78,000) of all ankle injuries that occur in high-school athletes are sustained by football players.

This study follows the publication of a similar UW study on high-school basketball players this summer. That study showed that lace-up ankle braces reduced the incidence of ankle injuries among those athletes by 68 percent.

Co-authors of the study include Dr. Alison Brooks, assistant professor of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation, and Scott Hetzel, biostatistician.

Funding for the study was provided by Don Joy Global LLC, the maker of the ankle brace used in the study. The company had no role in collecting the data, analyzing data or reporting the findings. The earlier study of basketball players was not industry-funded. Copies of the study are available upon request.


Date Published: 09/23/2011

News tag(s):  sportssportsmed research

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