Purpose: Recurrence of ankle sprains is common among athletes. Although ankle taping reduces the risk of injury, the mechanism underlying its effectiveness remains unclear. Anecdotal reports suggest a role of the belief among athletes that taping will protect them from injury. That is, taping may have a placebo effect. The purpose of the present study was to determine whether there was a placebo effect with ankle taping in individuals with ankle instability.
Methods: Thirty participants with ankle instability completed a hopping test and a modified star excursion balance test under three conditions: (i) real tape, (ii) placebo tape, and (iii) control (no tape). Participants were blinded to the purpose of the study and were informed that the study aimed to compare two methods of ankle taping referred to as mechanical (real) and proprioceptive (placebo). The order of testing the three conditions and the two functional tests was randomized.
Results: There was no significant difference in performance among the three conditions for the hopping test (P = 0.865) or the modified star excursion balance test (P = 0.491). However, a secondary exploratory analysis revealed that participants' perceptions of stability, confidence, and reassurance increased with both real and placebo ankle taping when performing the functional tasks.
Conclusion: The role of the placebo effect of ankle taping in individuals with ankle instability remains unclear. Clinicians should, therefore, continue to use ankle-taping techniques of known efficacy. They should, however, focus on maximizing patients' beliefs in the efficacy of ankle taping, because its application reassured participants and improved their perceived stability and confidence. The effect of ankle taping on participants' perceptions may contribute to its effectiveness in preventing injury.