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The method of action of ankle taping as a prophylactic measure is unknown. Garrick and Requa (1973) demonstrated that tape becomes looser after only ten minutes and provides very little mechanical restraint after half an hour of competition. Garn and Newton (1998) and Karlsson and Andreasson (1992) have hypothesised that the benefit of taping comes from enhanced proprioceptive awareness which allows the Peroneal muscles to contract faster in a reflex response to a twisted ankle.

The type of taping technique and the choice of material used is largely based on the athletes preference, with this decision largely based on custom, superstition and comfort (both physical and mental). A couple of common preventative ankle taping techniques are demonstrated later within this guide.

Ankle tape is also appropriate following acute ankle sprain. As well as immobilisation, a compression bandage can help to limit swelling. Capasso et al (1989) compared the effect of adhesive and non-adhesive tape on ankle compression using a pressure cuff. They concluded that non-adhesive tape has to be renewed after three days, but that adhesive tape lasted 10 days. This would indicate that adhesive tape provides more compression, but it should be remembered that too much compression compromises venous blood flow, which can be counter productive in limiting swelling. There is an example of a compression support for an acute ankle sprain later within this guide.

In the mid eighties Australian physiotherapists advocated taping as a major component of the management of anterior knee pain. The reasoning behind this approach was that it improved patellofemoral mechanics and altered muscle imbalances around the knee. The evidence for this was largely anecdotal (the original research by McConnell (1986) did not contain a control group and there was no objective measure of improvement), but the technique has enjoyed widespread use. More recently more rigorous studies (Kowall et al 1996) have found no evidence to support the use of patellofemoral taping, as their randomised controlled trial found that taping did not enhance a standard physiotherapy treatment program without taping. Further research by Gigante et al (2001) using a CT scan to assess patellofemoral mechanics showed that patella taping didn't affect patella orientation and concluded that this approach doesn't improve anterior knee pain by changing patella position. Recently more theories from 'down under' advocate the use of tape to offload injured muscles - but we find that rest is the best method to offload damaged muscles.

Another taping technique that is commonly used by athletes, including elite level footballers is a 'clasp' over the patella tendon. This can be seen in several high profile soccer players, although it is unclear whether they are over their symptoms and simply wear the tape as a superstitious pre-match ritual. The reasoning behind this tape job is to compress the patella tendon thus restricting the force that can be exerted through it. Although the theory has very good face validity it is very difficult to provide objective evidence to support this technique, either clinically or in biomechanical studies.

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