MARCH 6, 2019

Summer has finally (and sadly for me) ended. With this comes the psychological change of things getting colder. Less beach time, less daylight and cooler water if I feel like having a swim.

What this change of season does bring is the traditional winter sports; soccer, netball, rugby union, rugby league and AFL. There are also the ongoing touch football and various football “tag” competitions.

One of the most common injuries from all of these sports is the rolled or sprained ankle. There are various levels of seriousness for the injury, primarily they are a soft tissue injury that with the correct care and rehabilitation can have the athlete back on the field reasonably quickly.

One of the things becoming common place across many sports, particularly in junior sports, is the belief that wearing an ankle brace or using “preventative taping” will minimise the chance of injury. This can be an expensive and unnecessary exercise (pun intended) for an athlete who has never injured their ankle before. Proper training sessions allow our children/young athletes the opportunity to develop, build reflexes and react to movement and position of the body that occurs in their chosen sport. This is known as proprioception. If we brace or tape preventatively, we could be giving our children a crutch they don’t need. You don’t see children in kindergarten using a walker!

If they have injured an ankle seek medical advice. Do the proper rehabilitation exercises and there is every possibility that the ankle will be stronger than it was before. Why? Because the athlete has focussed on strengthening the soft tissue around the joint. Will they be using tape after the injury? That will depend on the specialists advice. It is likely but rarely a lifelong recommendation. Initial taping after exercise does help with the psychological confidence and proprioceptive awareness whilst recovering. Does it mean you need to tape it forever? Highly unlikely.

So why are many people encouraging kids to do this? We see all the highly paid athletes on television getting strapped up prior to the game or even mid game. They even have different coloured tape that looks cool! Unfortunately that’s where a lot of kids (and their parents) see this as the way it should be done. What you need to remember is that these athletes are paid a lot of money to play their sport and missing a game through injury could be detrimental to their season or sometimes their career. It is their profession, their job, and the only way many of them can make a living. Given the short time they can remain at the highest level, they will do anything they can to stay on the field or court.

What we don’t see is the years of training and competing that these athletes have gone through to get to that level. During that time there have been countless injuries, and due to the demand on them to continue, they play partially injured. This is why we see so many of them with practically every joint covered in tape or with a brace.

What we also rarely see is how their bodies are after they retire and the daily pain many of them go through. Many of you or your children may have the aspiration to make it as the next sporting superstar. That is something that you can encourage and if they do make it to that level they will have the best medical advice and assistance possible within their chosen sport. Remember that it is only 1% of the top 1% that make it to that elite level.

Encourage children to do the proper exercises and training to strengthen their bodies to help prevent those injuries and save your wallet.