Prophylactic Ankle Taping and Bracing: A Numbers-Needed-to-Treat and Cost-Benefit Analysis

J Athl Train. 2004 Mar;39(1):95-100.


OBJECTIVE: Taping and bracing are thought to decrease the incidence of ankle sprains; however, few investigators have addressed the effect of preventive measures on the rate of ankle sprains. Our purpose was to examine the effectiveness of ankle taping and bracing in reducing ankle sprains by applying a numbers-needed-to-treat (NNT) analysis to previously published studies. DATA SOURCES: We searched PubMed, CINAHL, SPORT Discus, and PEDro for original research from 1966 to 2002 with key words ankle taping, ankle sprains, injury incidence, prevention, ankle bracing, ankle prophylaxis, andnumbers needed to treat. We eliminated articles that did not address the effects of ankle taping or bracing on ankle injury rates using an experimental design. DATA SYNTHESIS: The search produced 8 articles, of which 3 permitted calculation of NNT, which addresses the clinical usefulness of an intervention by providing estimates of the number of treatments needed to prevent 1 injury occurrence. In a study of collegiate intramural basketball players, the prevention of 1 ankle sprain required the taping of 26 athletes with a history of ankle sprain and 143 without a prior history. In a military academy intramural basketball program, prevention of 1 sprain required bracing of 18 athletes with a history of ankle sprain and 39 athletes with no history. A study of ankle bracing in competitive soccer players produced an NNT of 5 athletes with a history of previous sprain and 57 without a prior injury. A cost- benefit analysis of ankle taping versus bracing revealed taping to be approximately 3 times more expensive than bracing. CONCLUSIONS/RECOMMENDATIONS: Greater benefit is achieved in applying prophylactic ankle taping or bracing to athletes with a history of ankle sprain, compared with those without previous sprains. The generalizability of these results to other physically active populations is unknown.