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If you’re a casual observer of hockey games or if you’re new to playing the game, you may wonder why some players tape their ankles before getting out onto the ice. Players choose to tape for a variety of reasons — but it’s not a requirement to play hockey.
Taping your ankles before putting your skates on can add an extra level of stability and can help prevent spraining or twisting the ankle while skating. Players who have suffered from previous ankle injuries may choose to continue taping their ankles before putting their skates on to prevent future sprains. However, it’s best to strengthen your ankles through various exercises and stretches instead of relying on tape.
Ankle Injuries in Hockey
Ankle injuries are relatively common in hockey due to the fast-paced nature of the game and the sudden turns that players need to make in order to chase after the puck.
Hockey players are particularly susceptible to the high ankle sprain, which typically occurs when the ankle rolls from the inside to the outside — also known as eversion. This is different from the standard inversion sprain which is found more often in other sports, such as basketball and football.
These types of ankle sprains can take around two months to heal, so you certainly don’t want to miss that much time on the ice. It’s important to take preventative measures to ensure you’re helping your body avoid such injuries altogether.
What If I Have Previous Ankle Injuries?
While a healthy player with no history of injury shouldn’t require the extra support provided by ankle tape, you may need it if you’ve had previous sprains. However, you may find that an ankle brace would be a better option for you.
It’s best to talk to your doctor or your trainer to find the best solution for your particular situation. You don’t want to continuously injure the same ankle, as it will keep weakening over time and your healing time may lengthen each time.
Warming up adequately before you get onto the ice is just as important as warming up on the ice. Stretching out your body and focusing on spots that have been injured previously can be an effective method for helping your body recover and strengthen over time.
Do You Have to Tape Your Ankles?
No, you don’t have to tape your ankles before going onto the ice. It’s all up to personal preference. In fact, many NHL players don’t rely on tape to support their ankles — as naturally strengthened ankles will come with more ice time.
Some skates even have built-in support for the player’s ankles — so you won’t find yourself needing the extra tape. Taping your ankles is only a temporary supportive measure and it’s not a long-term solution to the issue of feeling unstable in your skates.
How to Strengthen Your Ankles
A simple solution to strengthening your ankles is to simply skate more frequently. Even when you’re not at practice or playing a game, you can still get out onto the ice and practice your skating — which will build strength over time.
You should be practicing a stretching routine before and after you play hockey, as this will help to prevent future injuries. Stretching your calf muscles is a great way to prevent soreness and strengthen your lower legs.
Squats are also a good exercise to strengthen your ankles and your lower body. Wobble boards can be great for working out your ankles and getting them used to move in all directions without causing soreness.
Choose the Right Skates For Your Ankles
When purchasing your skates, you should ensure that they’re the proper size and you don’t have excess room in the boot. A stiff pair of skates will offer more ankle support; however, they can be harder to maneuver in for new players.
Cheaper pairs of skates tend to be lacking the improved technology that helps to prevent ankle injuries. If you have suffered from sprains in the past, it may be time to invest in a quality pair that offers you increased protection.
Along with choosing the right pair of skates, it’s important to lace them so that they’re snug and so your foot isn’t moving around while you’re skating. The more room your feet have to move, the more likely your ankle is to bend at an awkward angle.
Tips For Taping Your Ankles Effectively
If you want to tape your ankles before putting your skates on, you should follow a few simple directions to ensure the tape is going to reach maximum effectiveness. Ankle tape can act as compression for the ankle joint but you don’t want to wrap it too tightly for fear of circulation issues.
Kinesio Tape is a great choice for adding extra support while also keeping your range of motion intact. This tape is also waterproof, so there’s nothing to worry about if your feet get damp from sweat during playing or after you shower off post-game.
You’ll want to consult with the trainer on your team on how to best tape your ankles in a way that alleviates your specific concerns. If you use Kinesio Tape, it can last for up to five days — so you don’t have to tape and re-tape constantly.
Strengthen Your Ankles Before You Tape
Unless you have a history of ankle sprains, you should attempt to naturally strengthen your ankles with a series of exercises and stretches before you choose to tape them every time you put on skates. This is only a temporary solution.
High-quality skates can make a significant difference when it comes to how supported you feel in them. Purchase a pair with built-in ankle support and that should give you the necessary confidence to do well on the ice.
While a pair of hockey skates can provide a fair amount of stiffness and protection for a player’s ankles, they aren’t a suitable replacement for naturally strengthened ankle muscles. If you feel that your ankles are weak, you can take steps to stabilize them.