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Strapping yourself in and then backing yourself in

So, you’ve injured yourself during your most recent training session, or maybe you’re heading into a big game this weekend and want to yield precaution around a particularly sensitive, injury prone area. In the past you’ve been to the physio for sports injuries and have either heard about it, seen it, or had some strapping done.

But what is strapping and what exactly is it for?

Strapping, or taping, is the process of applying tape onto a specific area of the body in order to maintain joint, muscle and bone stability during physical activity.

The goal of athletic strapping during sport is to reduce the swelling of soft tissues, add support to and restrict motion of an already injured part of the body or to prevent possible injury. It is also used to heal moderate joint and ligament sprains and tears. In all of these instances, the function is to stabilise and restrict the motion of the injured, or potentially injured, area. It also works to facilitate better postural patterns or normal joint and muscle movement.

On a practical level, strapping is often used to secure a pad or brace, for example, an ankle brace during training. There are a variety of tapes on the market that can be used including elastic cloth bandage, rigid tape, kinesiology tape and compression bandages. Though these tapes all perform the umbrella function of strapping, some lend themselves better to certain injuries, for example, a shoulder injury responds well to kinesiology tape. Here, it is important to note that incorrect techniques can result in blisters or ineffective injury management and prevention. It is important to follow directions from your physiotherapist, or have them do it for you.

Does strapping really work?

Having acknowledged the desired goals of strapping for injury prevention and injury management, it is worthwhile noting that it is not a total safeguard against injury. Being responsible in collision sports, and using equipment properly and safely during workouts is vital in protecting the body. Despite it becoming a widespread phenomenon in recent years, used regularly by many athletes for injury prevention and injury management, there have not been a large amount of control trials done wherein the effect and impact of strapping is monitored. Despite this, physiotherapists and sports coaches continue to use it as a precautionary method to aid athletes in recovering from and protecting against further injury.

Strapping and injury prevention

Taping is used to provide support to an affected area when an athlete returns to physical activity following a minor injury. Here, strapping is important for injury prevention as it limits excessive or unnatural movement of muscles, ligaments and bones. In some cases, it may function even better than rigid bracing for injury prevention.

Strapping and injury management

Strapping is used to manage symptoms for musculoskeletal disorders and is frequently used on those with pre-existing conditions in order to manage chronic injuries. For some injuries, running tape along the nerve tract of inflamed tissue can reduce pain and shorten the inflamed region. Taping is believed to be able to alter muscle imbalances, potentially preventing a knee injury or reducing the risk of increased damage.

The kinds of injuries strapping lends itself to can include:

  • Medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints)
  • AC joint sprain
  • Ankle sprain
  • Wrist sprains
  • Knee ligament injuries and sprains
  • Turf-toe
  • Tendonitis

Are you experiencing any of the aforementioned conditions as chronic pain or injury during and after physical activity? Make an appointment with Fairfield Physiotherapy & Sports Injuries Centre to find out about the appropriate strapping technique and injury management for you.