The Effect of Ankle Bracing on Kinematics in Simulated Sprain and Drop Landings: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study

Am J Sports Med. 2019 May;47(6):1480-1487. doi: 10.1177/0363546519837695.


Background: The efficacy of external ankle braces to protect against sudden inversion sprain has yet to be determined while taking into account the possible placebo effect of brace application.

Purpose: To assess the protective effect of an external ankle brace on ankle kinematics during simulated inversion sprain and single-legged drop landings among individuals with a history of unilateral lateral ankle sprain.

Hypothesis: The primary hypothesis was that active and placebo external braces would reduce inversion angle during simulated inversion sprain.

Study design: Controlled laboratory study.

Methods: Sixteen participants with ankle instability and previous sprain performed single-legged drop landings and sudden inversion tilt perturbations. Kinematics of the affected limb were assessed in 3 conditions (active bracing, passive placebo bracing, and unbraced) across 2 measurement days. Participators and investigators were blinded to the brace type tested. The effect of bracing on kinematics was assessed with repeated measures analysis of variance with statistical parametric mapping, with post hoc tests performed for significant interactions.

Results: Only active bracing reduced inversion angles during a sudden ankle inversion when compared with the unbraced condition. This reduction was apparent between 65 and 140 milliseconds after the initial fall. No significant differences in inversion angle were found between the passive placebo brace and unbraced conditions during sudden ankle inversion. Furthermore, no significant differences were found among all tested conditions in the sagittal plane kinematics at the knee and ankle.

Conclusion: During an inversion sprain, only the actively protecting ankle brace limited inversion angles among participants. These results do not indicate a placebo effect of external bracing for patients with ankle instability and a history of unilateral ankle sprain. Furthermore, sagittal plane knee kinematics appear to remain unaffected by bracing during single-legged landing, owing to the limited effects of bracing on sagittal ankle kinematics. These results highlight the role of brace design on biomechanical function during sports-related and injury-prone movements.

Clinical relevance: Athletes prone to reinjury after lateral ankle sprain may benefit from brace designs that allow for full sagittal range of motion but restrict only frontal plane motion.

Keywords: ankle brace; ankle inversion; kinematics; lateral ankle sprain.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Ankle Joint / physiopathology*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Braces*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Joint Instability / physiopathology*
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Movement
  • Range of Motion, Articular
  • Sprains and Strains / physiopathology