When choosing an ankle support for football it is important to consider the following:
- How much support you need
- That it will fit comfortably into your boots
- That it works with other protective gear – mainly the shin pads
- That the necessary motion at the ankle for running / manoeuvres is not reduced
Firstly, let's look at the types of ankle brace or support available:
Simple ankle supports
These tend to be neoprene or elasticated sleeves or wrap-around supports with no additional metal or plastic parts or straps. They give compression, heat retention and very low-level support, although would provide no resistance against turning the ankle over. These are suitable for minor sprains to help reduce swelling and for those who want something warm around the joint. Examples include the Neo-G ankle support and the Vulcan silicon ankle support
Stabilized ankle supports
These are similar to the above although also contain some form of additional support. Common additions include a lightweight metal or plastic stay embedded in the side of the support, or a cross over or figure of 8 strap. Because of this extra stabilization these provide a little more support while still remaining relatively slim line and so are generally good for minor to moderate ankle sprains when returning to play. Examples include the LP775 and the Donjoy strapping elastic support.
Lace-up ankle supports
Lace-up supports are very popular and provide moderate to high support, depending on the device used. They tend to be a canvas type material which lace-up at the front. Most have a u-shaped metal spring embedded in each side of the support. Others may have wider plastic splints or cross over straps. Some of these are bulkier than others and may reduce the necessary ankle range of motion so this should always be considered as doing this could lead to other injuries. Examples include the Mueller universal ATF and the McDavid 199T.
High level supports
The braces which provide the greatest support tend to have a combination of places and straps, or have very wide, rigid plastic positions down each side of the ankle. Whilst these do provide good support, it is important to consider the fit in the boot and also the use of shin pads or guards with them. It will probably not be possible to use the type of shin pad which has ankle guards and a strap under the heel, although strapless ones may be suitable. Examples include the Aircast A60 and the PSB sports ankle brace.
So, going back to the original questions:
- How much support is needed
- Will it fit comfortably in football boot
- Will it work with other protective gear?
- Necessary motion is not reduced
For minor to moderate ankle sprains a simple or stabilized support should be fine. For some, repetitive ankle sprains and fractures, a lace-up or higher level support may be required.
Most simple or stabilized support will fit. For lace-up and high level supports, avoid anything with very wide plastic parts down each side.
This is not too much of a problem, although with supports with plastic places, be prepared to have to change your shin guards.
Lace-up supports are most likely to limit the ankle motion into plantarflexion and dorsiflexion.
If when choosing an ankle support for football , you bear in mind the above four points, you should find something which provides the support levels and comfort you require.