Athletes who have had problems with their ankles (1st, 2nd or 3rd degree sprains) before a physical activity, must use a method to solidify their ankles to avoid worsening the condition or re-injuring themselves.
There are two ways to solidify an ankle: having a professional do a taping before the activity, or by wearing an ankle brace, properly adapted to the morphology of the foot and meeting the needs of the athlete.
But what is better?
Taping, when done properly, can help solidify an injured ankle which is healthy enough to return to the activity. This method is very personalized, depending on the anatomy of the athlete, but has the disadvantage of having a very short lifetime (between 15mins and 30mins). Due to sudden movements, sweat and heat, the rigidity of the protection can be degraded and give a false sense of security to the athlete. To be effective again, another “taping” will have to be done in time before a problem occurs. It can be done over the initial taping.
The brace offers longer lasting support. The supporting structure is made of solid material (polymer, rigid plastic, or in some cases metal), and although it is possible that the protection might loosen, it can be solved very rapidly by tightening the adjustment mechanism. However, the effectiveness of the brace will depend on its fit to the athlete’s physiology. So it is important to consult with a professional to make sure you have the correct brace for you, since there are customized or molded braces, but a standard brace may fit you fine.
To avoid: ankles sleeves or warmers that do not have stabilizing structures and offer only compression. They are not made to compensate for the loss of stiffness in the ankle ligaments and tendons.
Of course, one must take into account the price. A good brace can cost up to a few hundred dollars while a “taping” will usually be between $5-20 depending on the therapist (in some cases, sports teams include this service in their fees). But ultimately, it is important to look at safety and the chances of re-injuring yourself.
Another factor to be considered: can the brace fit in your equipment? For those who practice an activity involving shoes, it will be necessary to try to see if your brace can fit into them. Same thing applies to those using skates. The best way to do this is to bring your equipment with you when you go to see a specialist.
The last point to consider is that you should consult your physiotherapist even if you have purchased a brace. The brace will protect your ankle from being re-injured, but you must continue to solidify and re-educate your ankle structures to eventually have a healthy ankle again.