Is That Ankle Brace Doing More Harm Than Good?

We often see new kids wearing ankle or knee braces. When they show up in a brace, we stop the lesson and ask questions.

My first experience with an ankle brace was a severe sprain during a basketball game. After a week on crutches, I could hardly walk across the lawn without the ankle rolling. This continued for months. The brace seemed necessary if I were to play basketball again. That fall I had a lot of free time to hunt in the mountains of Virginia. Constantly walking around the sides of steep ridges, the ankle became stronger and stronger. Without knowing it, I was actually undergoing a form of therapy and the brace was soon forgotten.

When possible, the goal is to get rid of the brace through aggressive therapy or proper strength training. First, let’s address the harm in using a brace, especially for young people. In layman’s terms, it replaces the body’s “position sense”. The body and brain work together when we walk or run. We know exactly how to distribute and shift weight to maximize the transfer of energy in safe and efficient ways. A brace takes over much of that responsibility so you lose that natural ability to react to various forces. The brace becomes addictive.

The brace can also take over some of the functions of the muscles, so those muscles become more dormant, further weakening the ones that should be doing the work. Finally, if you brace an ankle that is designed to roll during heavy impact, that stress can be passed further up the leg to the knee, which is not designed to roll in the same way, thus a more serious injury can occur.

Because the body cannot move freely, compensation can occur and we begin using muscles that might not be designed for a specific movement, so things get out of sequence. Quickness can be lost and other injuries can occur because of improper muscle balance.

Sometimes a brace is needed, especially after medical treatment. Sometimes you need a brace to finish a season. As soon as possible you want to find a professional to help you get rid of it. A highly skilled Sports Therapist or very qualified Strength Trainer, with a degree in Exercise Science of Exercise Physiology, can help you eliminate the need in most cases. Don’t be surprised if they spend very little time on the ankle. Usually they will address issues like strength or flexibility in the core.

If you go through treatment with one of these professionals, you may have to meet with a very qualified Pitching Instructor to get your pitching back to normal. For instance, you may lack the confidence to fire aggressively onto an ankle that was once weak. And, you could have developed muscle imbalances due to compensation during the time you wore the brace.

Do not throw the brace aside without consulting a professional. Your body will need expert help in returning to normal function and they will need to have input on how quickly you can return to sports activities. Finally, if you do not feel much stronger once you have finished the therapy, continue to talk to the pro. If may take more time or more intense therapy than originally thought.

If you, or your pitching instructor, have questions, feel free to contact us.

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