Those of you who have read some of my past entries know that ankle sprains are the most common injuries in basketball.
Research has shown that, once you sprain your ankle, you are more likely to injure that ankle again.
Research has also shown that ankle taping can decrease the risk of having a second (or third, or fourth or...) ankle injury.
While many players tape up before each practice or game, others do not because they worry that this might impair their performance on the court.
In this article from the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine, researchers from Spain compared the effects that ankle taping had on the vertical jump and the balance of 15 active young men (average age = 21 years).
They found no significant difference in their vertical jump or balance when their ankles were taped or not taped. This information might make people more likely to tape their ankles and not worry that it will impair their performance.
At the same time, however, they also found that the ground reaction force (the force of impact when the body lands) of the vertical jumps was significantly greater on the knees when the subjects had their ankles taped.
This is likely due to the fact that the ankle taping made the ankles "stiffer" and less able to absorb the landing force. In this way, more force was transferred to their knees to act as shock absorbers.
I would like to see a similar study performed with some of the more common ankle braces, which are likely to be less tight than a freshly wrapped ankle. And, to make it more applicable to real-life basketball athletes, the testing should have been performed after letting the subjects play basketball for 15-30 minutes (during which tape jobs often loosen up). And, while we're on the subject of improving the study, it should also include younger athletes of both genders and more tests (agility, speed, etc.)
The take home message? This does not lead to an all-or-none decision for or against taping ankles. For those who worry that ankle taping might decrease their vertical jump and adversely affect their balance - fear not. But for those whose main concerns are patellar tendonitis, Osgood-Schlatter and other knee overuse injuries, keep in mind that taping ankles may play a role in your knee pain.