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Article written by:

Ash Cannan, Physiotherapist

Competitive sports such as basketball, football, netball and volleyball have high incidence of ankle injuries which can result in considerable time away from the field, court or pitch.

There is much debate about whether protective support such as taping or functional bracing can help athletes reduce the risk of such injuries. Furthermore, what role does taping/bracing play in returning to sport after injury, and which is more effective? Both have their respective advantages…

Many studies have been done to show the effectiveness of ankle taping. In the studies where ankle taping was deemed to enhance ankle protection, the tape was applied in a pattern to prevent a specific motion (inversion). If you decided to use ankle taping for support, you must also take into consideration the experience and knowledge of the person applying the tape and the quality of the tape itself. No matter how good the tape job is, athletic tape will begin to lose support as the ankle is moved throughout a practice or competition. Perspiration can also decrease the effectiveness of the tape job, which is why it is important to start with a strong tape job.

On the other foot, ankle braces are shown to be as effective as tape and can be frequently readjusted throughout practice or competition for comfort and support. As with taping, ankle braces have been found to increase proprioception (our body’s sense of movement), which becomes impaired at the ankle following a sprain. It is thought that bracing will improve this sensory feedback after injury, which means the tape or brace rubs/pulls on your skin, alerting receptors which tell the muscles to catch the ankle from moving too far sideways.

Finally, cost can be an important factor to take into account when deciding between these two. The need to continually purchase athletic tape plus the cost of pre-wrap and adhesive spray can build up over the course of a season. An ankle brace will only cost a one-time fee and can be used for a much longer duration. Overall, it is really a matter of preference. Braces can be self applied and readjusted, and are most cost effective.

Taping can be applied in specific patterns to prevent movement in certain directions, and is easily changed for personal comfort. Some type of support is definitely warranted, with taping and bracing both having their positives.

Therefore it would be good practice to use ankle support (either tape or brace) following a sprain when returning to your sport. In conjunction with a comprehensive rehabilitation program, it can significantly reduce injury time and return to sport.

Corio Bay physios can provide you with specific advice about taping techniques and/or a proper brace fitting. If uncertain about whether either option will benefit you, it is always important to consult with your health professional.

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