Ankle injuries are one of the most common sporting injuries in athletes. The combination of plantarflexion and inversion during jumping and cutting tasks increases vulnerability to a lateral ankle sprain injury during dynamic sports. Taping modalities are routinely used to reduce the risk of ankle injury, even though some research suggests the restrictive properties of tape may reduce during exercise. The purpose of this study was to determine whether a time point exists where the restrictive properties of prophylactic ankle taping reduces.
Forty-two participants (29 men, 13 women; age: 22.09±2.79yrs; height: 180.78±8.45cm; mass: 79.35 ±13.35kg) were recruited to complete a repeat measures, randomized control trial. Participants with taped (n=21) or untaped ankles (n=21) completed sets of ten cut-tasks at zero minutes, and again at five-minute intervals up to and including 20 minutes. A dynamic fatigue protocol was also completed between sets of cut-task trials to simulate sporting activity. Measures of ankle angles at the selected temporal events, peaks of gastrocnemius, fibularis longus and vastus medialis muscle activity, heart rate (HR) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) were collected.
Significant increases in RPE and HR were noted in both the taped and non-taped groups at all time points, suggesting fatigue effects were consistent across both groups. The taped group showed significant increases in foot adduction at initial contact from 0-10min (p=0.03), 0-15min (p=0.04) and 0-20min (p≤0.001), and increased peak ankle dorsiflexion from 0-15min (p≤0.001). Non-significant increases in plantar-flexion were also observed from 15-20 minutes. The taped-group showed a significant increase in gastrocnemius activation during the load acceptance phase from 10-20mins (p≤0.05). Sagittal and transverse plane ankle angle peaks were also shown to converge from 15-20 minutes, although the taped group consistently displayed a reduced range of motion.
The findings of this study indicated that the restrictive benefits of self-adherent strapping tape decreased following 15 minutes of fatigue inducing dynamic activity, although the available movement is still less than the non-taped group. An awareness of such functional limitations following dynamic movement tasks will enable more appropriate use of ankle taping as an injury prevention tool.