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One thing we regularly get asked while treating ankle sprains is the question of wearing a brace or taping an ankle for return to sport. Taping and strapping can have many roles to play in the rehabilitation of the ankle. In the early stages taping can give the joint protection and allow a patient to put weight through the foot. Later on, specific taping techniques can be used to mimic mobilisation techniques used in treatment sessions and thus relieve pain. However when it comes to using support for sport, this can cause more debate. On the positive side a brace or tape can give good support to the joint. Evidence suggests that the use of taping or bracing does help prevent re-spraining the ankle. This feeling of support can give an athlete confidence in the ankle after a sustained absence from the playing field.
There is, however, the opposite debate that using external support will make the muscles around the ankle ‘lazy’. The tape is doing some of the work that the ankle muscles and therefore the ankle muscles could weaken. This does not seem to be backed up by research though with some studies showing no reduction in muscle activation with tape on.
In general, the decision of whether ankle support is needed, is normally made on an individual basis. A first-time mild to moderate ankle sprain, which is correctly rehabilitated will not normally require any taping or strapping. But a recurrent ankle sprain with more severe ligament damage could do very well with a brace or tape.
If you and your physiotherapist decide that some support is needed the choice can be made between taping and bracing. On the positive side for taping, it is cheap and it can be applied in a specific manner depending on your injury. However in some people tape can cause skin irritation and it is time consuming to apply. Bracing can have some advantages over strapping. Although there is a higher initial cost, it is easier and quicker to apply by the athlete. In summary taping may be more suitable if support is needed in the short-term with bracing more suitable if long-term support if needed.
If you are wondering about ankle taping or bracing for return to sport, feel free to contact us for further information.