An ankle sprain is an injury to the ligament, the tissue that holds bones of the ankle joint in position. Ankle sprains are very common. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons estimates every day, about 25,000 people sprain their ankle. It usually occurs when the foot doesn't land as expected, causing the ankle to twist or roll over the foot, stretching the ligament. While ligaments are somewhat flexible, in a sprain, the tissue is stretched beyond normal limits.
Severe ankle sprains can be very disabling and require surgical repair and several weeks to months of rehabilitation. Even after rehabilitation and exercise training, researchers estimate 40 percent of patients continue to have some degree of ankle instability, which can greatly affect their ability to participate in certain types of activities.
Preventing Ankle Injuries
Basketball players are at high risk for ankle sprains due to the nature of how they jump, cut and pivot during a game. The effect of a sprain can be particularly hard on pro athletes, sidelining them for a whole season or even ending their career.
Researchers have tried many different ways to reduce the risk for ankle sprains. However, the traditional ankle wraps, tape and high-top sneakers provide minimal protection against sprains, and they often limit range of motion in the ankle.
Now, there's a new type of sneaker that's specifically designed to provide solid support for the ankle. It's called Ektio. Barry Katz, M.D., Radiologist from Bridgewater, NJ, and one of the developers of the footwear, says ankle sprains occur when the bottom of the shoe goes one direction and the foot, sliding inside the shoe, goes in another way. The Ektio sneakers have two specially designed straps integrated into the side of the shoe. One strap goes across the ankle and under the tongue to keep the foot in place inside the shoe. The second strap goes over the top of the tongue and around the outside ligaments to support the ankle. Katz says when those straps are pulled tight, they "marry" the foot and shoe into a single unit so that the foot can't move independently of the shoe.
A second feature on the Ektio sneakers is the integration of outside "bumpers," notches that stick out slightly on the outside of the bottom of the shoe. The bumpers act like a door stop, catching the ground when a wearer lands on the outer edge of the shoe, and returning the sole to a flat position.
The Ektio sneaker was tested by experts at Drexel University and the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. The researchers found people who use the sneaker are significantly less likely to turn over an ankle. In addition, the shoe system didn't have any negative impact on a wearer's maneuverability.
The Ektio sneakers come in different color combinations and are sold for about $150 plus shipping and handling. Katz says it takes some practice to learn how to properly place the straps, so he recommends users follow the instructions included with each sale. Currently, the anti-sprain system is only available in basketball shoes. In the future, Katz would like to see the technology incorporated into shoes used for other types of sports where ankle sprains are common.
Research compiled and edited by Barbara J. Fister
For general information on ankle sprains:
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, http://orthoinfo.aaos.org