Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Study Spotlight: Ankle Brace Effects on Plantar and Toe Muscle Strength

By: Joel Luedke

There has been constant and consistent discussion on if bracing should be utilized as a preventative measure.  There is good data out there that looks at how much it can reduce the incidence of injury and also reduce the severity of an injury if it occurs. That being said could you also be 'detraining' the body (muscles, nervous systems) to respond to the forces you are applying to it as you utilize a brace to help support and protect an area?

This study takes a look at how one ankle brace affects the ability of the body to generate force through the toe and plantar flexor muscles of the lower leg and what that means to health and performance.

What They Did:
These researchers took a look at how using an ankle support vs splint vs barefoot affected the subjects ability to generate force through their plantar flexor muscles (PFS-calves), toe flexor muscles (TFS-instrinsic foot muscles) and passive range of motion (ROM).  21 healthy participants participated.

What They Found:
Overall there was a decrease in when utilizing the 'splint' which restricted a lot of motion.  There was a significantly lower amount force generated through the plantar flexors muscles in the ankle 'support' compared to the barefoot group.  However, when they looked at toe flexor strength there was not a significant difference between the 'support' and the barefoot group.

What It All Means:
The authors had a unique read on this and some of it was based on previous research that they had completed.  The authors interpreted this data showing that there wasn't a 'large decrease' in muscle strength of the foot which they deemed to be the most important factor when looking at this data set.  While the plantar muscles strength decreased they did not see this as something that might contribute to having more ankle issues and or decrease in performance.  They appear to recommend utilizing ankle supports for both practice and competition but being careful to not become reliant.

This goes along with my general line of thinking and I do find it interesting the amount stake they put into the foot muscle strength over the plantar flexor strength.  That is an area I'll have to dig more into.  I do think that bracing is going to be more beneficial than taping unless you are able to afford the more expensive tapes that hold up better to sweat and moisture.  You're going to get more rigidity and the evidence on injury risk and severity is pretty good and to me, worth the investment.  I do think you need to do as much as you can outside of practice and competition when there are variables you can't control without the use of a brace to make sure you aren't dulling your bodies natural ability to perform and react.  

Always a good discussion/debate.

LINK: Mueller "The One" Ankle Brace  (we do like Mueller but for cost and price this is one of the best options we've found)

Source: Yamauchi, J. Koyama, K. Influence of Ankle Braces on the Maximum Strength of Plantar and Toe Flexor Muscles. Orthopedics & Biomechanics.

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