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Athlete with Taped Ankle

3 Purposes of Ankle Taping For Athletes

Ankle taping is a very common practice among athletes in all sports. However, how many of us have often wondered about the purpose for which a particular athlete has taped his or her ankle? If you are an athlete yourself you may also have wondered whether you should tape a stiff, sore or unstable ankle. In this post we explain 3 purposes for adhesive tape can be used to treat or prevent ankle injury. We also briefly consider how the method of ankle taping may differ depending on the purpose of the taping.

Taping Immediately After Incurring An Ankle Injury

A medical trainer will usually apply tape to your ankle immediately after you have suffered an injury. The most common type of ankle injury is an inversion sprain resulting from the ankle turning in and forcing the 5th (small) toe towards the ground. This causes stretching or tearing of the ankle ligaments and, in turn, a feeling of instability in the ankle. The damage to the ligaments also results in long term weakness and greater risk of re-injury in the future. In this situation, the purpose of ankle taping is to reduce swelling the athlete may experience immediately after the injury. In a future post, we will describe in detail the (Figure 8) taping technique frequently used in this situation.

Rehabilitation Of An Ankle Injury.

Woman rehabilitating an injured ankle using Resistance Bands. The purpose of ankle taping here will be to provide less restriction than during the immediate aftermath of the injury while still supporting damaged ligaments.
Rehabilitating an injured ankle using Resistance Bands. The purpose of ankle taping here will be to provide less restriction than during the immediate aftermath of the injury while still supporting damaged ligaments.

Once the sprain has sufficiently healed, the athlete will begin a series of exercises designed to improve ankle strength and stability. The priority is to gradually restore full ankle strength and function while keeping the risk of re-injury low. The exercises will include the use of resistance bands. They may also include balancing exercises such as single leg stands. These may be initially done on level and stable surfaces and then on non level and/or unstable platforms). The purpose of taping the ankle during this stage of the recovery should be to provide adequate support to protect the joint. At the same time it should allow sufficient range of motion to avoid interference with the rehabilitation exercise program.

The taping techniques used during the rehabilitative phase may include the X Arch Taping Technique or Circular Arch Taping.

Taping To Increase Proprioception

In some situations, an athlete may have his or her ankles taped even in the absence of an injury. In addition to swelling reduction and rehabilitation, ankle taping may be used for the purpose of increasing proprioception. Proprioception refers to the body’s innate ability to sense unusual and potentially hazardous positions of body parts -in this case, the ankle – and to avoid them. There is significant evidence that ankle taping increases proprioception and thus reduces the risk of injury. The use of ankle taping for this purpose also has the effect of increasing athlete confidence. This improved confidence in turn allows him or her to perform without the distraction of worrying about possible injury. This in itself boosts athletic performance.

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