To wrap or not to wrap — that is the question that faces many athletes when considering taping their injured ankle.
With millions of ankle sprains each year in the United States, ankle wrapping is a quick way for athletes to get back on their feet every day. But according to Ryan T. Scott, DPM, a Foot and Ankle Surgeon and Sports Medicine Specialist with The CORE Institute, using tape should just be a temporary solution.
“It definitely depends on what you are trying to accomplish. It’s a way for them to get back in the game relatively quickly, and they can do it easily with their trainers,” Dr. Scott said. “But I often talk with my patients about the role of bracing versus taping.”
He often recommends to chronic ankle strainers or those who have had any kind of surgical reconstruction to use a brace instead. Dr. Scott tells his patients that taping can lose up to 40% of support after 10 minutes of exercise.
“Meanwhile, players who wear high tops and a brace have a 50% better chance of preventing injury compared to low top shoes,” he said.
For those who have experienced ankle pain and want to tape up before an event to provide extra stability, Dr. Scott recommends a visit to their physician prior.
“Individuals who routinely sprain their ankles may have an underlying injury to the ligaments or tendons,” Dr. Scott said. “This can lead to much bigger complications and the potential for future injury.”
When athletes visit with ankle pain or a history of injury, he conducts proprioception tests to evaluate their balance and ability to stand in awkward positions without rolling over.
“My goal is for them not to wear a brace long term,” Dr. Scott said. “We send them to physical therapy to increase proprioception and home exercises to help strengthen their ankles.”
Leave it to experts
For those who do feel the need to tape their ankles and do not have access to a trainer, he recommends people should not self-tape unless they are experienced and fully understand the methodology.
“Taping is definitely an art form. If you don’t know what you are doing it can be time-consuming and you won’t have the appropriate results you are looking for,” Dr. Scott said. “For most people who do not have access to a trainer — purchase a sports brace — you may get better support.”