Baseball has a long tradition of sportsmanship, producing entertaining games and, unfortunately, ankle injuries. In fact, almost one in every 10 injuries in college baseball involves the ankle. There are plenty of reasons why baseball players are at risk of incurring these sprains, strains and breaks. However, there is also reason for optimism and lots of ways anyone, from a pitcher to a left fielder, can protect the joint from injury. In this post, we consider the reasons why baseball players are prone to ankle injuries. We also discuss the extent to which wearing an ankle brace for baseball may help to prevent injury.
Every baseball player has a pair of cleats they cherish. They may have helped them steal a base in a crucial moment or allowed them to chase down a fly ball. It may simply be because they’re reliable and comfortable. However, these footwear friends are not always the best piece of equipment for your ankle.
Because the cleats raise the foot off the ground, these shoes cause the foot to be farther from the ground than most. This means baseball players can dig into the dirt and the turf far better. However, this distance between foot and ground also causes instability. An unstable ankle is much more prone to being thrown out of its normal motion. This can lead to strains, twists, sprains, fractures and breaks.
The Playing Surface
Baseball is a unique game in that it is played on more than one type of surface at any given play. This makes it fun to watch and aesthetically pleasing for the crowd. However, both the transition between surfaces and the constant degradation of those surfaces present a risk to players.
During the course of nine innings, the dirt around the base paths can become uneven and cleats turn up the area around the batter’s box. Divots appear on the pitching mound and uneven turf dots the large expanse of the outfield, not to mention the hazard of obstacles that often come into play like the dugout or the stands. Stepping on the wrong area while running, catching or throwing can lead to a bad turn of the ankle and several possible injuries.
The Flow Of The Game
As with many other sports, baseball involves a lot of quick movement and pivoting. This increases the chance of lower body injuries, especially ankle injuries, as the body absorbs more weight and stress. Because the flow of game is so hard to predict from one moment to the next, the risk of injury to the ankle because of sudden movements becomes more pronounced.
Most plays in baseball are independent of each other, so reading what is going to happen next is impossible. This makes adjusting your body to absorb the impact of a quick turn incredibly difficult. Twisting to grab a hard hit ground ball, rounding the bases at high speed, sliding to beat a throw and changing directions to catch an errant pass all involve sudden and unpredictable shifts in balance. This results in a higher risk of ankle injuries.
The Batter’s Box
The batter’s box is a dangerous place. There are baseballs flying at more than 90 miles/hour within inches of your body. And then sometimes you’re your own worst enemy. It’s not uncommon for a batter to knock a pitch off his or her ankle, which is a recipe for pain and maybe even injury.
Hitting a ball off your ankle has the potential to break your ankle, fracture it, or bruise the bone, which leads to substantial time on the bench. And it’s not always batters who face danger in around home plate. Catchers can also get hit in the ankle by a foul ball. They can also be involved in a nasty collision trying to tag out a runner looking to score. These situations introduce a high risk of ankle injuries.
Why An Ankle Brace For Baseball May Be The Solution
Long term solutions include increasing ankle mobility and strength with carefully constructed exercise regimens. However, the best short term protection against ankle injuries may be the choice to wear an ankle brace for baseball.
Ankle braces provide support to the ankle by absorbing impact and unloading them to supporting structures in the lower body. Braces support lateral ligaments, the peroneal tendons, the plantar fascia and the posterior tibial tendon. As a result, those quick turn, shifts, steps and rotations don’t put as much stress on the ankle. They also ensure the joint stays in its proper alignment. Most heavy-duty braces also act as an extra layer to prevent the lingering consequences of a blow from a pitch.
Other orthopedic supports may also provide the same sort of protection as an ankle brace for baseball players. Players can use athletic tape in conjunction with braces to add yet another layer of support, compression and stability.