For most athletes, choosing between taping and bracing is a way of life. Many injuries require assistance beyond physical rehab and recovery in order for you to return to your previous competitive level. Using athletic tape or a brace can help reduce the risk of re-injury. But which one you use depends on the injured area and the extent of the injury.
Athletic tape comes in a variety of strengths depending on the severity of the injury. Taping allows for a custom fit but should only be done by a professional. Many coaches, parents or athletes themselves have been taped or seen it done. But the way the tape is applied and in what order is very important for the quality of support.
Tape remains tight for a short period of time. Eventually, the tape will break down due to sweat and activity. Taping should also not be used on an unstable joint that is not undergoing proper rehabilitation. Using tape in this way may not allow your injury to strengthen in the proper way.
Before using tape, make sure the surrounding muscles are strengthened as a first line of defense against your injury.
Similar to taping, bracing also has its drawbacks. Most of the braces available at your pharmacy or local grocer will not give much support to your joint for heavy activity. If a brace is necessary, please consult a professional for the brand they recommend.
Bracing your joint without the presence of a real injury will not allow your body to strengthen to its full potential. Simply having pain in the joint does not require a brace if no significant injury is present.
However, there are certain injuries that can be resolved with rehab exercises and a proper brace. Consult with your trainer or physical therapist for information on rehab exercises to use with any joint injury.
Finally, make sure your brace is fitted properly if you are wearing one. An improperly fitted brace may do more harm then good. Ask your trainer or doctor which brace they recommend for your injury and how to use it for your sport.
Ultimately, a brace does allow you to continue to tighten the fit as you participate which may provide longer support than taping. But depending on the joint or area of the body injured, taping may be your best solution. Smaller areas like fingers or wrists are better supported by tape.
The more focused your injury, the better the chance to prevent against re-injury by using bracing or tape. Always check with your trainer or doctor before buying a brace or using tape as they will be able to advise you if it will be beneficial for you as you return to intense activity. Call our PT department at (605) 275-1437 with any questions!