How to Avoid Ankle Injuries

If a horse breaks an ankle, the result is almost always a bolt to the head and the knacker's yard. For human beings, fortunately, the consequences of an ankle injury are much less extreme: a break is set, a sprain is strapped; some weeks on crutches, rest and rehabilitation, and we are as good as new. That is the upside. The downside is that if you are a professional athlete, or even a dedicated amateur, the time off the field or court or pitch can be disastrous. While your injury is mending, you cannot play, you cannot practice and you cannot train. Your fitness level drops, your skills suffer, and your muscles deteriorate.

It is, therefore, wonderful to know that if you learn how to strap an ankle before you are injured, you may avoid injury altogether.

Avoiding ankle injuries

Way back in 1946, an article was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) entitled a protective wrapping for the ankle. The author had figured out that ankles are the Achilles heel of all athletes, meaning that the ankle is very vulnerable. In fact ankle injuries are the most common sports-related injuries. This is particularly true in sports like basketball and netball which require a lot of running jumping and sharp changes of direction. Most ankle injuries are caused by landing badly after a jump, but twisting to change direction can also stress the ankle. However, the author of the article concluded, if ankles could be supported and reinforced with tape, many injuries could be avoided. The article outlined how to strap an ankle to prevent injury, and a small industry was born to manufacture and distribute sports tape.

How to strap an ankle with sports tape

Ankle injuries are most often caused by coming down, or landing, on the ankle at a bad angle. This can stretch and tear the ligaments and muscles. A well-supported ankle is less likely to "turn". A simple crepe bandage can greatly strengthen weak ankles, but professional athletes favour the much more complicated process of wrapping the ankle with sports tape.

How to strap an ankle the correct way is the subject of lengthy debate. There are many varieties of athletic or sports tapes. Some are rigid, some are flexible. Some are self-adhesive; others need a glue to keep them in place.

Whatever wrapping method you use, there are several common features of the process:

• Learn how to tear the tape: grasp it between forefinger and thumb, thumbs touching, and tear the tape by pulling in opposite directions.
• Avoid wrinkles while applying the sports tape as these can lead to discomfort and even blistering.
• Take care that the ankle is not so tightly wrapped that blood flow is constricted.
• Wax the lower leg before strapping. This avoids the pain of removing the tape (and hairs).

If you take the time and trouble to strap an ankle prior to practice or play, it is possible to greatly reduce the likelihood of sports injuries to these delicate parts of the body.