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  • Author: Robert J. Reyburn x
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Robert J. Reyburn and Cameron J. Powden

Context: Ankle braces have been theorized to augment dynamic balance. Objectives: To complete a systematic review with meta-analysis of the available literature assessing the effect of ankle braces on dynamic balance in individuals with and without chronic ankle instability (CAI). Evidence Acquisition: Electronic databases (PubMed, MEDLINE, CINAHL, and SPORTDiscus) were searched from inception to October 2019 using combinations of keywords related to dynamic balance, ankle braces, Star Excursion Balance Test (SEBT), Y-Balance Test (YBT), and Time to Stabilization. Inclusion criteria required that studies examined the effects of ankle braces on dynamic balance. Studies were excluded if they evaluated other conditions besides CAI, did not access dynamic balance, or did not use an ankle brace. Methodological quality was assessed using the Physiotherapy Evidence Database scale. The level of evidence was assessed using the Strength of Recommendation Taxonomy. The magnitude of brace effects on dynamic balance was examined using Hedges g effect sizes (ESs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs). Random-effects meta-analysis was performed to synthesize SEBT/YBT and Time to Stabilization data separately. Data Synthesis: Seven studies were included with a median Physiotherapy Evidence Database score of 60% (range 50%–60%), and 4 were classified as high quality. Overall meta-analysis indicated a weak to no effect of braces on SEBT/YBT (ES = 0.117; 95% CI, −0.080 to 0.433; P = .177) and Time to Stabilization (ES = −0.064; 95% CI, −0.211 to 0.083, P = .083). Subanalysis of SEBT/YBT measures indicated a weak negative effect in healthy participants (ES = −0.116; 95% CI, −0.209 to −0.022, P = .015) and a strong positive effect in individuals with CAI (ES = 0.777; 95% CI, 0.418 to 1.136; P < .001). Conclusion: The current literature supports a strong effect of ankle braces on the SEBT/YBT in those with CAI. However, little to no dynamic balance changes were noted in healthy participants. Future research should include consistent ankle brace types, pathologic populations, and the examination of dynamic balance changes contribution to injury risk reduction.