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Someone taping an ankle injury

Taping or Bracing: Which is Better?

By Laura Clarke, MEd, ATC

Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries in sports. There is some discussion as to what method is best to assist an athlete in returning to play after an ankle injury: taping or bracing? Many school athletic programs have a limited budget and do not have a supply of braces to provide athletes. Due to limits in time and supplies, it is also not practical to tape every athlete in order to prevent an ankle injury, especially when medical research has shown that preventative ankle taping does not necessarily reduce the risk of injury. In addition, taping loosens the longer it is worn and the more the athlete sweats, rendering it less effective. .

If an athlete has no past medical history of an ankle injury, it might be in their best interest to invest in an ankle brace, if they feel the need for extra support or if their coach recommends it. Bracing might be costly initially, but it can last multiple seasons, be specific to an athlete’s preferences, and be manually tightened throughout activity. Athletes should replace ankle braces annually or when they need to be repaired in order to function correctly. When an athlete has a history of ankle injuries, an ankle brace can be beneficial by providing constant support and may reduce the chance of recurring injury. An ankle brace is not beneficial while recovering from an acute ankle sprain. .

Athletes with acute ankle injuries are better candidates for ankle taping because an athletic trainer can apply a customized technique to provide support in the specific areas of injury. This would be be worn for a short period of time during the functional rehabilitation stages of the injury’s healing process. .

In all cases, taping and bracing should be used in addition to strengthening, stretching and proprioception training to prevent ankle injuries. Talk with your physician, physical therapist or athletic trainer to decide the best option for you.

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