Taping vs Bracing for Ankle Sprains

Author: Dr. Daniel Savarino, DO

Ankle sprains are one of the most common injuries seen at iOrtho, or any sports medicine or orthopedic practices. A sprain, depending on the severity of the sprain can range from a stretching to complete tearing of a ligament. It is the ligaments on the outside part of the ankle that are most commonly affected. The injury usually occurs when the ankle rolls, such as landing on another players foot in basketball, which causes the stretch or tearing of the ligament.

Initial treatment for an ankle sprain includes rest, ice, elevation and compression or RICE therapy, as well as anti-inflammatory medication to help reduce the swelling and physical therapy. The compression part of RICE is usually done with a brace or an ACE bandage. An athlete is advised that they should not return to play until they are able to run, jump, cut and pivot with no or minimal discomfort. When they first return it is also recommended that the ankle is supported to prevent another sprain.

One of the most common questions athletes with ankle sprains ask us at iOrtho is, “should I tape my ankle or use a brace?”. I recommend that the patient wear a brace as opposed to taping for several reasons including:

  • Tape has to be applied by someone trained in proper taping techniques where the brace can taken on and off by the athlete
  • Studies have shown that after 30 minutes the tape loosens to the point where it is no longer supporting the ankle
  • The brace can be continuously readjusted quickly, even on the field of play
  • Tape has to be applied before every practice and game and over time becomes much more expensive then a brace

An article in the May 2012 issue of BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders showed that patients wearing a brace after an ankle sprain showed significantly more satisfaction as compared to the group that used taping. Skin complications were also also 14.6% in the bracing group versus 59.1% in the taping group.

Ankle braces are easier to apply, easier to adjust; much cheaper over time and more comfortable then taping. For all of these reasons that should make the choice easy.

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