Ankle sprains are the number one sports-related injury. Approximately 2 million ankle sprains occur each year. Yet there is controversy over treatment and rehabilitation protocols. Prevention of ankle sprains in athletes is another topic that is often debated.
Prophylactic ankle wrapping began 60 years ago with various taping techniques. Many studies have shown that taping the ankle or bracing the ankle improves proprioception. Some of these studies compare strapping/taping versus bracing.
This is a controversial area with two different schools of thought. Taping of the ankle has many variables in comparison to bracing. These variables include the type of tape, adherents, the technique utilized, the position of the ankle while taping, and the competency of the person applying the tape. Also, over time, the tape usually stretches and reapplication is often required.
Braces are self-applied, adjustable, more reliable, reusable and, in the long run, significantly (up to three times) more cost effective. There is also less time consumption for trainers, especially if they are dealing with a large number of athletes.
Overall, braces have been found to have a slight advantage over taping in injury prevention. Studies are hard to control due to multiple variables in athletic shoes, athletes and performing surfaces. When you compare the advantages and disadvantages for both techniques, it is clear that bracing is a more efficient and cost effective method when it comes to reducing the risk of ankle sprains.