Effects of soft bracing or taping on a lateral ankle sprain: a non-randomised controlled trial evaluating recurrence rates and residual symptoms at one year

J Foot Ankle Res. 2015 Apr 14;8:13. doi: 10.1186/s13047-015-0069-6. eCollection 2015.

Abstract

Background: After sustaining an ankle sprain, taping is often the standard treatment in primary care. Ankle braces are sometimes used as an alternative. This study aimed to compare the effects of four weeks of soft bracing or taping following acute lateral ankle ligamentous sprain (ALALS) on sprain recurrence rates and residual symptoms at one year.

Methods: In this pragmatic, non-randomised controlled trial, 157 adult participants with an ALALS caused by an inversion trauma were alternately allocated to a four week treatment with a soft brace (intervention group) or a four week treatment with ankle tape (control group) in order of presentation. The primary outcome was the 1-year incidence of the self-reported recurrence of ALALS. The secondary outcome was the occurrence of residual symptoms.

Results: Baseline characteristics did not differ appreciably between the treatment groups. Thirteen patients (17%) in the brace group reported a re-injury versus 11 patients (14%) treated with tape, corresponding to a risk difference of 3.1% (relative risk 1.2, 95% CI 0.6 to 2.6). Cox regression analysis showed a hazard ratio of self-reported ankle sprain recurrence within 52 weeks in the brace group compared to the tape group of 0.9 (95% CI 0.4 to 1.9). After one year, patients in the brace group had poorer scores on the manual anterior ankle test, corresponding to a risk difference of 15.4% (RR 2.4, 95% CI 1.1 to 5.0).

Conclusion: ALALS recurrences and residual symptoms appear to be similar at one year when an ALALS is treated with four weeks of soft bracing or taping.

Trial registration: ISRCTN92030205.

Keywords: Ankle sprains; Athletic tape; Braces; Recurrence.