Sports Taping And Ankle Injury

Sports Taping And Ankle Injury

Physio sports taping at The Movement Centre Randwick

Winter sports season is fast approaching. So, we thought we would address the fundamentals of strapping tape. Here we will take a look at the theory, benefits, limitations, evidence and some of the practical applications for physio sports taping. In this blog we will predominantly look at taping as it applies to ankle injuries. Ankles make up the vast majority of the sports taping that we perform at the Movement Centre in Randwick and in further blogs we can look into physio taping for other joints.

What is sports taping – and what does it do?

Sports taping usually refers to the use of rigid tape application around injured joints. Most of our joints are held together and supported by ligaments. Ligaments are small rope-like tissues that connect bones to one another. When a ligament is injured, it is often stretched or torn. This can result in laxity in the joint. Too much movement here can result in injury to the cartilage and bones around the joint. It can also make it difficult to perform the coordinated movements required in sports. Hence it is important to limit this excess movement when a ligament is injured.

Ankle ligament injury and strapping tape

Ankle ligament injuries usually involve the anterior talo-fibular ligament (ATFL) and sometimes the calcaneo-fibular ligament (CFL). These are two ligaments on the lateral aspect of the ankle. Injury to these ligaments can result in lateral instability in the ankle. Despite this, function can return quite quickly if the injury is treated properly. This often means an athlete can return to sport despite the injured ligament not being completely healed. This forms a huge part of the treatment risk-reward analysis we perform when determining when someone can return to sport after an injury. We need to assess the likelihood of the ligament being re-injured and use tape to mitigate that risk. This is why physios and sports trainers will use tape to help recently injured athletes return to the pitch.

Fundamentals of Strapping using physio sports taping

The key with strapping is that it only offers a fairly mild, modest support. It isn’t recommended for use with acutely injured and unstable injuries. The support it provides isn’t intended to keep grossly unstable injuries intact. For this reason, it is a great adjunct to a proper rehab program. And within this it can provide confidence for an athlete’s return to training and sports. The aims of ankle taping are:
  • Provide support for an injured joint
  • Unload painful or vulnerable structures
  • Provide compression around an inflamed or painful joint
  • Increase the athlete’s sense of awareness of the sore joint or injured area
Importantly to note, there are downsides to taping. Limitations and downsides of strapping tape:
  • The structural support lessens quite rapidly with movement
  • Can imbue an injured athlete with overconfidence in an injury
  • Can alter normal mechanics
  • Can create skin irritations / blisters. This has two important downsides. Skin irritation can significantly alter how we load an area – particularly blisters on the feet. Can open up the skin to infections and sores
With that background out of the way, let’s take a dive into what the research says about some of the most common sports taping applications we perform.

Does strapping tape help after an ankle injury?

Strapping tape can be helpful for providing support and stability to the ankle after an injury. It can also help to reduce swelling by compressing the affected area. However, it is important to note that strapping tape should be used in conjunction with other treatments. Restoring strength, range of motion, and normal function is key before strapping should be considered. The use of strapping tape alone is not sufficient for a complete recovery from an ankle injury. It is also important to ensure that the tape is applied correctly. Improper application can cause further injury or discomfort. In addition to strapping tape, ankle braces or supports may also be recommended by a medical professional to provide additional support and stability during the recovery process.

What is the scientific evidence for strapping tape after ankle injuries?

There is some scientific evidence to suggest that strapping tape can be beneficial for managing ankle injuries. A systematic review of 17 studies published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2012 found that strapping tape was effective in reducing the risk of ankle sprains in individuals who had a history of recurrent ankle sprains. The review also found that strapping tape was effective in reducing pain and improving functional outcomes in individuals with ankle sprains. A randomized controlled trial published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2013 compared bracing with sports taping. It found that ankle taping was more effective than ankle bracing in reducing the incidence of ankle sprains in high school basketball players. Another randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy in 2016 also compared braces with taping. This too found that ankle taping was more effective than ankle bracing. Benefits for taping were in improving dynamic balance in individuals with chronic ankle instability. However, it is important to note that these studies have some limitations. They used small sample sizes and variations in taping techniques. Additionally, strapping tape should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan. In the acute phase this involves usual management with RICE principles. Strapping will not overcome acute swelling and injury, nor is it sufficient to return an athlete when they aren’t ready. As stated above: strength, range of motion, pain and function need to be restored. Only then can physio sports taping can become a useful way to help facilitate a return.

Bracing or sports taping

Despite the above studies bracing has many virtues over ankle taping. These include ease of use, and quick tightening and re-application. Braces also tend to create less skin irritation than tapes that involve adhesives. And importantly, patients don’t need to keep seeing a physio for ongoing taping. We often encourage patients that need ongoing taping to seek out a brace that they are comfortable with.

The elephant in the room… Is there evidence for kinesio taping for injuries?

The evidence for kinesio taping for injuries is mixed and inconclusive. Some studies have suggested that kinesio taping may be beneficial for managing certain types of injuries. However, others have found no significant difference between kinesio taping and other forms of treatment or placebo. A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy in 2012 compared kinesio tape with sham taping and placebos. It found that kinesio taping was no more effective than sham taping in improving pain, disability, or range of motion in individuals with rotator cuff tendinitis. Another randomized controlled trial published in the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine in 2017 found that kinesio taping was no more effective than sham taping or traditional physical therapy in reducing pain and improving function in individuals with patellofemoral pain syndrome. Overall, there is very limited evidence to suggest that kinesio taping may be beneficial for certain types of injuries. More high-quality research is needed to determine its effectiveness and optimal application techniques before we would recommend it for our patients. If a patient has found kinesio taping beneficial in the past, we are happy to apply it with them; however, we rarely reach for it in our tool-bag. If you are recovering from an ankle sprain, or suffer recurrent ankle sprains, ankle taping may be helpful to facilitate a return to sport. We are open on Saturday morning to tape any of the local athletes of Randwick. If you need taping as part of your management, come and see our team. We can talk you through options for taping and formulate a return to sport plan.
Disclaimer: The Movement Centre provides this information as an educational service. The information contained on this website and in this blog is not intended to serve as or replace actual medical advice. Anyone seeking specific advice or assistance should consult their local Randwick Physio, general practitioner, medical specialist, or otherwise appropriately skilled practitioner.