Tape vs brace for prevention of ankle injuries - which one is better?

Preventing ankle sprain injury: taping versus brace.

Ankle sprain injuries are common in sports that involve change of direction and rapid acceleration and deceleration, eg Netball, Basketball, Soccer. Depending on the severity of injury, an ankle ligament sprain can keep a player out of play from anywhere between 3-12 weeks, so prevention is key to better performance. The two most common methods used to support the ankle and prevent a sprain are an ankle brace and ankle tape. Patients often ask which method works better, but there continues to be controversy about which is better, with no definitive conclusions in the current available literature. 

How does the ankle support help?

External ankle supports provide a mechanical support to the ankle joint, preventing excessive side-to-side movement of the ankle. Therefore, if the ankle is held in a more rigid position, the ligaments are protected from being over-stretched or torn. Ankle supports also help to improve the proprioception, or sense of where the ankle is in space. This gives the athlete feedback about when the ankle gets put into a threatening position and allows them to react and protect. Most athletes report that the both the brace option and the tape support is sufficient enough while minimally affecting their sport performance.

Things to consider when choosing an ankle support:

Time: how long it takes to apply/put on the support. It is quick and easy to put on an ankle brace, usually it will have laces and/or Velcro. Tape can often be more time consuming, especially if you are new to applying the taping method.

Cost: Usually a good ankle brace will set you back about $100, but these last a long time. Rolls of tape cast about $15 a roll, so while it may seem cheaper at the start, it is surprising how quickly you chew through rolls of tape.

Personal preference: ultimately it comes down to what is most comfortable and which one the athlete is able to perform better in. Some people find their skin reacts to the tape, while other people find the ankle brace too bulky or rigid.

 

Regardless of which ankle support you choose, it is best if used in conjunction with a rehabilitation program to improve on proprioception, especially if the ankle has been injured previously. Your Lifecare Ashburton physiotherapist can assist in fitting the right ankle support for you and providing the right proprioception/balance program for you. 


Laura Anderson is a physiotherapist and Pilates Instructor at Lifecare Ashburton Sports Medicine. Laura has strong interests in patient-specific injury prevention programs, triathlon and running. Laura's full profile is here, and to book an appointment with Laura, click here.

Laura provides physiotherapy and pilates services to Ashburton Camberwell, Oakleigh and surrounding suburbs.


Images in this article are from Ethos health