My name is Jeff. I'm 31 years old. I look like I'm 16. I have the ankles of an 80-year-old.
My ankles have been brittle for as long as I can remember. I started rolling and spraining them as a teenager, and experienced a series of horrific injuries in my twenties. In 2003, I had a really bad one that put me on crutches for six weeks and kept me off the court for months. My doctor made me get an MRI. When we looked at it, he pointed out that one of the ligaments in my ankle had been completely torn away. My poor ligament won't ever grow back, and at some point, I will have to have surgery.
I had to start wearing ankle braces to play basketball about eight years ago. Over time, I've experimented with a few different styles and brands, and I will share my thoughts here.
1. Ace bandage. This is what the doctor/trainer wraps your ankle in immediately after a minor injury. It provides minimal support and will not prevent most ankle rolls. Don't try playing in this.
2. Standard neoprene ankle brace. If you have a very minor injury, this could do. However, for someone with ankles as bad as mine, this might as well be wax paper. When my ankles see one of these, they laugh and laugh.
3. Aircast. This is a serious piece of equipment, but it's not really for playing in. It's for walking around while your ankle is healing. If you try to play in one of these, your ankle will be protected from injury, but you will only be able to run at half speed, and turning will not really be an option. It should be called "The Mutombo."
4. Basic lace-up ankle brace. This is a good, affordable option. The brace has laces in the front, which can be tightened and loosened as needed, and there is usually some sort of lightweight wiring embedded in the side for additional support. It takes a while to get used to wearing this type of brace, but once you are accustomed to it, it feels like an old (but smelly) friend. Lace-ups will prevent most injuries, but not all. My ligament-shredding ankleplosion happened in one of these.
5. Lace-up brace with inserts. This is one step up from the lace-up brace, and what I currently play in. I actually remove the inserts because they are uncomfortable, but these braces are still tougher than the standard lace-ups. I've never had a serious injury in one of these. McDavid and Tru Fit are good brands.
Setshotters: Share your experiences with ankle support here. Also feel free to contribute reviews of knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist and face supports. We'll start another thread for "best steroids," so hold off on that for now.