After being sidelined from an ankle injury, it’s understandable to be nervous returning to sport. Taping can be a useful tool after a ligament sprain to get you back on the court or field. As the ligament takes a while to fully mature back to its usual level of strength, having a form of external support can help bridge the gap and facilitate a return to play. Read on to see the benefits of taping and use our step-by-step guide for the best taping technique.
Ankle taping benefits
One mechanism that helps to decrease the risk of injury is by improving proprioception or awareness of the foot and ankle. Following an ankle sprain, there may be a disruption to the body’s ability to detect sense of movement and joint position which may mean the body cannot make targeted corrections to the ankle to avoid dangerous positioning.
Athletic tape is designed to restrict movement and doesn’t stretch which means it stabilises an injured ankle and prevents future injury by limiting much of the ankle movement.
Tape can stimulate the sensory receptors of the leg and foot on the skin, resulting in better awareness of foot position and muscle activation.
Additionally, the mechanical support means that the ligament is not stretched or stressed as much, which can reduce the risk of a repeat injury.
Unpacking the tape technique
Depending on the particular injury, taping can vary in its application. The aim of the tape is to restrict motion at the ankle that stresses the target structure. For example, an ankle sprain occurs from an inversion motion, which is when the ankle rolls inwards. Therefore, tape is placed around the ankle to restrict this movement. The below video demonstrates an example of how to tape an ankle for end stage rehabilitation from an ankle sprain.
o This circumferential strip around the ankle allows the tape to adhere.
o These strips wrap around the ankle. This provides support via increasing the joint congruency or contact, and provide some slight support from the tilting movement.
o The loop around action is designed to restrict the rolling-in movement. The line of pull is closer to the midfoot which gives it slightly more power to resist the rolling movement.
o The heel lock is a strong tape which aims to do what the figure 6 does but with more security. Because the line of pull is different to the figure 6, using both is able to provide more theoretical protection for the ankle.
o To ensure the tape does not fall off, another strip is placed around the anchor to lock them all down.
Beyond the tape
As discussed above, utilising ankle tape in a sports setting has numerous benefits. However, approximately 20% of acute ankle sprains turn into chronic ones. Therefore, it is important to understand the benefits of treatment and performing appropriate rehabilitation to further minimise chronic ankle issues. Generally, to address chronic ankle instability, studies suggest strengthening the muscles around the ankle with well-planned proprioceptive exercises.
A study conducted by E. Carlos Rodriguez (2018), suggested implementing strength based and proprioceptive rehabilitation, helping the patients return to normal living and sports activities and preventing unnecessary surgery, especially in cases with functional instability.
Tape can be a helpful tool to reduce injury risk and protect ligaments when returning back to sport. This should not replace a good rehabilitation program, as without it the ankle is at risk of becoming chronically unstable.
For more tips and information on taping techniques or to enquire about rehabilitation after an ankle sprain, contact one of the CSSM practitioners.
Alawna, M., & Mohamed, A. A. (2020). Short-term and long-term effects of ankle joint taping and bandaging on balance, proprioception and vertical jump among volleyball players with chronic ankle instability. Physical Therapy in Sport, 46, 145-154.
Raymond, J., Nicholson, L. L., Hiller, C. E., & Refshauge, K. M. (2012). The effect of ankle taping or bracing on proprioception in functional ankle instability: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 15(5), 386–392. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2012.03.008
Rodriguez-Merchan, E. C. (2012). Chronic ankle instability: diagnosis and treatment. Archives of orthopaedic and trauma surgery, 132, 211-219.
Smyth, E., Waddington, G., Witchalls, J., Newman, P., Weissensteiner, J., Hughes, S., … & Drew, M. (2021). Does ankle tape improve proprioception acuity immediately after application and following a netball session? A randomised controlled trial. Physical Therapy in Sport, 48, 20-25.
About the authors
CSSM Physio Hugh Feary has always been interested in how the body works, sport and strength training. Hugh has previously worked in GP clinics and private practice as well as a variety of local sporting teams including the Fremantle Dockers in the AFLW.
Osteopath Tahlia Austin has an holistic approach to treatment, treating the body as a whole and working alongside her patients to achieve optimal health outcomes.
Throughout her career, Tahlia has worked in a variety of settings including VAFA Premier League football teams, which has given her exposure to a wide variety of acute sporting injuries and from that, the ability to accurately diagnosis and apply effective evidence-based care.
Myotherapist Eden Rochester loves to educate her clients and guide them in their wellbeing, connecting with people from all walks of life, different cultures and different fitness levels.
Eden particularly enjoys treating issues she has experienced herself including headaches, TMJ (temporomandibular joint pain in your jaw) and neck pain.
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