November 2020

Don’t Try This for Ankle Stability

While ankle sprain is perhaps the most common of sporting injuries, there remains no one-size-fits-all solution. But there is one solution that’s losing ground based on new evidence from the Institute of Motion Analysis & Research (IMAR) at the University of Dundee in the United Kingdom.

Researchers led by Zack Slevin sought to assess the effect of newly popular (and colorful) kinesiology tape on ankle stability. Slevin’s team recruited 27 healthy individuals and took electromyography (EMG) measurements from the peroneus longus and tibialis anterior muscles, the primary stabilizing muscles of the ankle. Using perturbations in a custom-made tilting platform system, they then recorded the muscles of the dominant leg during sudden induced ankle inversions. Measures were taken with and without kinesiology tape and shoes, creating 4 test conditions: barefoot (without tape), shoe (without tape), barefoot (with tape) and shoe (with tape). Peak muscle activity, average muscle activity, and muscle latency were then calculated for each of the 4 conditions.

Their results showed no significant difference using the kinesiology tape in any of the 4 conditions. In other words, kinesiology tape had no effect on the peak muscle activity, the average muscle activity, or the muscle latency for the peroneus longus or tibialis anterior during a sudden ankle inversion.

However, wearing shoes, demonstrated a different story: All mentioned variables increased during a sudden ankle inversion while shod. Results include an increased activity of the tibialis anterior, a prolonged peroneus longus latency, and a shortened latency from peroneus longus activation to tibialis anterior activation.

Writing in their discussion, the authors note that the lack of significant difference between the taped and non-taped conditions regarding peak and average activity of the 2 muscles shows that the tape offered no mechanical support nor did it improve proprioception. Indeed, they note, it may be the case that the tape in fact reduces proprioception rather than improves it. Furthermore, they note that while kinesiology tape appears to have effect on ankle stability, shoes appear to be detrimental.

Source: Slevin ZM, Arnold GP, Wang W, et al. Immediate effect of kinesiology tape on ankle stability. BMJ Open Sport Exercise Med. 2020;6:e000604.

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