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Taping the ankle for athletics

Download a PDF of the instructions for athletic taping an ankle.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Ankle taping is one of the most commonly recognized skills of the athletic trainer and coach interested in returning athletes to play after ankle injuries. The most effective tape prescription for an ankle sprain is designed specifically to protect the structures injured.

Transcript of "Athletic taping the ankle" video.

The most common ankle sprain has an inversion mechanism and results in an injury to the ligaments on the outside of the ankle.

The standard ankle tape prescription for this type of injury is the "closed basket weave".

To prepare the ankle for taping the skin should be dry, clean, shaven and free from lotions or oils that would keep the tape from sticking to the skin.

The materials you will need for the closed basket weave taping are: tape adherent, pre-wrap, heel and lace pads, and inch and a half athletic tape.

Begin with the athlete’s ankle supported off the end of a table or other support. Have them maintain neutral position throughout the taping procedure.

  • Spray on adherent.
  • Apply heel and lace pads over the front and back of the ankle at its flex points to prevent blisters. 
  • Apply pre-wrap one layer thick where possible to protect the skin from irritation.Apply two anchor strips, just below the calf beginning at a downward angle to conform to the natural shape of the leg. 
  • Apply another anchor strip to the arch.

Since we want to prevent the inversion ankle sprain mechanism of injury, we must pull the ankle outward with the tape.

To do this;

  • Apply stirrup strips beginning from the inside of the leg at the anchor strips, pulling downward over the medial anklebone and under the heel, and pulling upward over the lateral anklebone and adhere them to the anchor strip.
  • Alternate the three stirrups with three perpendicular or horseshoe strips in basket weave fashion over the ankle.
  • Overlap the tape by half the width of the tape and be sure to cover the anklebones from back to front and bottom to top.
  • A cover strip may be applied to the top of the stirrups to secure them while finishing the rest of the taping.

Heel-locks are applied by starting just above the ankle bones on either side, progressing over the front of the ankle joint wrapping under the arch at a downward, backward angle that will take the tape around the back of the heel and around the opposite ankle bone. This is then repeated from the opposite side. Apply two sets of heel-locks to each side of the ankle. Tear the tape between heel-locks to help get the proper angles. With practice, it is possible to connect the heel-locks with one continuous strip of tape by adding a loop around the ankle.

Start the figure-8 strip slightly higher than the heel-locks and angled slightly more forward so the tape wraps around the foot just behind the styloid process of the fifth metatarsal, the bump on the outside of the foot.

Apply an arch strip to cover the front of the taping and anchor the tape to the foot being sure to stay behind the styloid process and keep the tension uniform so as not to squeeze the mid-foot.

Finish the ankle taping by applying cover strips with uniform tension from the bottom up and by overlapping half the width of the tape and crossing in front adjusting the angles so each of the tape ends is covered and the tape remains secure and doesn’t peal off with activity.

Look over your ankle taping to identify any gaps, wrinkles or high-pressure areas that may cause blisters.

Be sure to ask the athlete about comfort and check circulation with a gentle squeeze to the toes. The nail bed should turn white and on releasing, should return to a pink color within a second or two.

If the athlete develops pain, their skin turns blue-ish, or turns cold or numb the tape may need to be loosened or removed.

Removing the tape can best be done with a tape cutter. Start in the arch and pull up behind the anklebone and up the leg. Remember to peel the skin away from the tape, not the tape away from the skin.

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