Ankle Sprains and Braces: Follow-up

I recently realized I never followed up on my ankle brace delibrations. It came to my attention when reader N. Trout sent me this e-mail:

Hi, Jim. I stumbled upon your site while doing some research. I have a remarkably similar experience with ankle braces. I'm 38 years old and fairly active. I had chronic ankle sprains up through college, at which time (about 1989) the school's training department gave me the McDavid brace. I've been wearing that ever since and have never fully sprained my ankle ("tweaked" it a few times but never rolled it over completely)...until two nights ago. Coincidently, I had just bought a new McDavid ankle brace for my right ankle and the night I sprained it was the first night I wore the new brace. Maybe it wasn't sufficiently tight and/or broken in, or maybe it was just that I came down just right (or wrong) on someone else's foot and nothing could have prevented the roll and subsequent sprain. I do believe, however, that the brace probably limited the extent of the sprain. Anyways, it has incredibly been 17 years for me as well without a sprain. Some of the other guys I play basketball with swear by the Active Ankle brace but I didn't want to make a change (until two nights ago) because the McDavid had seemed to suit me so well all these years. I did end up going to the doctor yesterday. I figured that maybe there had been some new technological advancements in ankle protection technology over the past 17 years. Sadly, he said not much has changed, but he did recommend Active Ankle.

So, I'm wondering what you ultimately did. Did you make the switch or did you stick with McDavid? What's happened since your last post on this topic (or did I miss an update somewhere on your site?)?

Here's my reply, which will do double-duty as follow-up for this site:

Hi Noel,

Sorry to hear about the ankle! Also sorry about the lack of follow-up, it just didn't end up being all that interesting. The bottom line is that I tried the Active Ankle braces, but didn't like the way they felt, so went back to McDavids. I'm fairly comfortable with this for a few reasons:

[1] I figured one sprain in seventeen years wasn't too bad a record.

[2] I read in one of the studies that no ankle brace solution provides enough support to resist the torque of a bad roll.

[3] Another study suggested increased proprioception and/or assisting in returning the foot to a neutral position is how ankle braces and taping conferred their benefits.

From this I inferred that the Active Ankles would be better at resisting torque but not as good in providing proprioceptive benefits, while the McDavids would provide the converse. No idea if that's true, but it seemed to make sense to me, at least.

Then again, I know guys that swear by the AAs, and say stuff like, "I can't imagine spraining my ankle while wearing this."

Sorry I don't have a more conclusive answer. If you stick with the McDavids, make sure you tighten them up after the first 10 minutes or so. I never realized how slack they get (one of those studies mentioned that tape jobs and lace-ups basically provide no support after the first 10 minutes because of loosening). Of course, I had to stop doing this because the added pressure exacerbated my achilles pain. If it's not one damn thing it's another... :-)

Good luck!