ATHLETIC TRAINER’S CORNER
Benefits of Elastomeric Ankle Braces
Athletic trainers often encounter athletes with ankle sprains, one of the most common sports-related injuries. A traditional component of treatment and rehabilitation is the use of ankle braces. The commonly used rigid ankle braces have, for a long time, been the standard for treatment. However, recent advances in brace technology, specifically elastomeric ankle braces, show compelling reasons for a transition.
ELASTOMERIC ANKLE BRACES VERSUS RIGID ANKLE BRACES
Rigid ankle braces, as their name suggests, offer a solid support structure, but with that rigidity comes limited mobility. They stabilize the joint but do so at the cost of fluid movement, a feature critical in athletic performance and injury rehabilitation. Conversely, elastomeric ankle braces provide the necessary support without overly restricting mobility.
An elastomeric brace is comprised of materials that mimic the body’s elasticity, providing athletes with a more natural range of motion. This dynamic flexibility aligns with the nature of most sports activities, which involve multi-directional movement patterns. It provides more active and functional rehabilitation, thereby fostering recovery without sacrificing the essential biomechanics of the ankle.
BENEFITS OF ELASTOMERIC ANKLE BRACES
Proprioception is the body's ability to perceive its positioning in space and is vital for preventing reinjury. Improved proprioception is a standout benefit of elastomeric braces. The greater flexibility of elastomeric braces allows better proprioceptive feedback, helping athletes to more quickly regain confidence in their injured ankle.
Furthermore, elastomeric braces adapt to the swelling patterns of an injured ankle better than their rigid counterparts. They accommodate variations in swelling throughout the day, offering comfort and stability without causing undue pressure points, which can lead to skin irritation and discomfort.
Studies also show that elastomeric braces can potentially speed up the recovery process. By allowing a controlled range of motion, they foster the strengthening of weakened muscles around the ankle, promoting quicker recovery and return to sport.
OVERCOMING RESISTANCE TO CHANGE
Switching to elastomeric ankle braces may require a shift in mindset for some trainers, considering the long-standing reliance on rigid braces. However, the benefits to the athlete and the potential for enhanced recovery cannot be ignored.
Elastomeric braces do not forsake stability but rather redefine it in a more biomechanically synergistic way. They allow for functional stability – stability that does not inhibit the natural movement patterns of the ankle.
Moreover, it's important to note that while the transition may require an initial investment in acquiring new braces, the potential for improved patient outcomes and quicker return to sports activities could offset the upfront costs.
Elastomeric ankle braces represent an advancement in sports rehabilitation technology, aligning support and mobility. They present a compelling case for trainers to revisit their ankle sprain management protocols. It's time to embrace this innovation in rehabilitation and transition from overly rigid ankle braces to the biomechanically-synergistic elastomeric braces. This adoption could result in improved patient outcomes, athlete satisfaction, and ultimately, better performance on the field. We need to allow our athletes to move naturally and recover more effectively with elastomeric ankle braces.