Ankle Taping or Ankle Bracing: Which One Is Right for Your Athlete?
Nov 21, 2018
Most studies show that bracing or taping decreases the incidence and severity of ankle sprains. Besides physical support, taping or bracing can increase biofeedback and increase proprioception, which is a body’s ability to know where it is in space. Proprioception helps improve control of the ankle.
If you decide your child needs additional ankle support, the next question is whether bracing or taping is more beneficial. Individual preferences, circumstances and needs play a role in making that decision.
Braces are less expensive in the long-term, as you only make one purchase, and they are a good option for schools with low budgets who can’t provide preventative taping for all athletes. Also, an athletic trainer isn’t always available to tape ankles and aren’t allowed to tape visiting teams.
Athletes can adjust and tighten braces on their own and most studies show braces are slightly better than taping at preventing ankle sprains.
Braces can be bulky in shoes or cleats, uncomfortable or sometimes won’t fit and they are harder to customize to an athlete’s foot or specific needs.
Taping is less expensive in the short-term – you don’t have to pay as much money up front. Taping is easier to customize to an athlete’s foot and specific needs because it fits into shoes or cleats.
Taping can be more expensive than bracing in the long-term because of the need to continuously buy supplies. Tape cannot be adjusted after it has been applied and even if applied well, it can loosen throughout a practice or game from use or sweat. An athletic trainer or other qualified personnel to should apply the tape, so not having someone there to help could be a downside.
Parents may be concerned that taping or bracing can weaken the muscles that control the ankle and incidentally increase the chance for future ankle sprains. However, some studies show that taping or bracing doesn’t decrease a muscle’s ability to fire.
Maintenance strengthening programs for athletes utilizing tape or braces can be helpful to increase proprioception, strengthen muscles and improve ankle and foot stability. Talk to your child’s athletic trainer or schedule an appointment with a sports medicine physician who can help you sort through all the pros and cons of bracing or taping to figure out the best fit for your athlete!
To learn more about Sports Medicine services at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, click here.
Bernadette Burke, MS, AT, ATC, is a board-certified and Ohio licensed athletic trainer with Nationwide Children’s Hospital. Her outreach responsibility is with Watkins Memorial High School.
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