An interdisciplinary group of researchers from universities in Australia and the US, including Matthew Jeffriess from University of Technology Sydney and Dr. Robert Lockie from California State University, Northridge, teamed up to investigate whether ankle taping has an effect on athletic performance and muscle activity in basketball players.

Basketball players often complete high-intensity movements involving direction change during games, which can place their ankles in vulnerable positions that increase injury risk. It has been reported that 15.9% of all injuries in basketball players involve the ankle joint, and over 80% of these injuries involve ligament sprains.

Athletes hoping to prevent such injuries will often tape their ankles to protect and support the joint. There is little data, however, on how taping affects the activity of muscles around the ankle joint during sport-specific movements. Recognizing this knowledge gap, Jeffriess and his team used the Trigno Wireless EMG system to measure muscle activity in 20 experienced basketball players during timed agility tests.

Trigno Standard EMG sensors were affixed bilaterally over the tibialis anterior, peroneus longus, peroneus brevis and soleus muscles (Figure 1). Two sensors were also placed on the lateral border of each shoe heel, to record foot-strike with the integrated accelerometer.

Subjects performed the Y-shaped agility test (Figure 2) in both taped and un-taped conditions. Researchers identified the change-of-direction step in each trial from the accelerometer and EMG data, and analyzed the peak muscle activity during this cut.

The results indicate no significant differences in agility test time, and minimal changes in EMG peak activity and pattern, between un-taped and taped conditions. This study suggests that ankle taping is an appropriate preventative measure for healthy basketball players, as it restricts joint motion without significantly affecting agility or the behavior of the ankle stabilizing muscles.

Figure 1
Figure 2