Bracing and Taping Ankle Sprains
Ankle sprains are very common in sport and normal functional activities with millions of people suffering this kind of injury every year. Ankle bracing and taping is used to treat ankle sprains and to try and prevent such injuries in sporting activity. The most common type of ankle sprain is an inversion injury where the ankle rolls over on the outer border, tearing the ligaments on the outside of the ankle, with the swelling, bruising and pain which typically accompanies it. The parts of the ligaments are injury typically from the front towards the back.
Ankle sprains are mostly caused by landing from a jump with the foot in an inverted position to some degree, with some loss of the joint position sense being a risk factor for this injury. Sudden onset of severe pain is immediate with the person unable to continue sporting activity and in severe cases finding walking difficult. Ankle sprains grade gently into ankle fractures so a formal assessment is useful if the injury appears severe. While taping and bracing seems a logical course of action to stiffen the ankle the evidence for this is not strong, and taping is known to loosen off after only a short period of exercise.
The reason for increased ankle stability is not clear, but research work indicates that the taping may increase the proprioception or joint position sense of the ankle, allowing the person to more accurately gauge their ankle position and correct any deviations from the stable position. Bracing and taping has not been shown to weaken ankle muscles even when worn for long periods of time. Taping needs skill and repeated application and bracing may have significant advantages over taping as braces are easily applied and adjustable as well as allowing increased rigidity.
Non rigid braces are made of fabric of some kind, with elastic in some braces, but these braces do not impart any stability to either side of the ankle and may again function by increasing the joint position sense of the joint and aiding stability actively. More rigid braces incorporate rigid struts made typically of hard plastic and placed laterally and medially around the ankle to give side to side stability to the ankle. Physiotherapists use braces to prevent injury and to manage athletes in the rehabilitation period after injury, allowing return to sporting activity sooner than would be possible without a brace.
Author: Jonathan Blood-Smyth