Stop the Spatting

A HIGH percentage of football players get ankle spatting [taping] treatment before going onto the field for a game and even for practice. Spatting is where an athletic trainer or physical therapist/physiotherapist wrap the shoe to the players ankle and possibly higher up the leg depending on the players request [please see picture below]. Spatting is a “normal” practice in football and is deemed in a positive light.

ankle spatting

Some quotes from players on why they get the treatment: “It’s for the look”, “Team unity”, “I get my shoes pulled off when I get tackled, it’s less time on the sidelines trying to get my shoes back on”, “It’s for my weak ankles”, “Comfort”, “Protection”, “Injury prevention”, etc.

Unfortunately, there is nothing healthy or protective about this practice. Aesthetics (colour coordination with the tape and team uniform) is a moot point when injuries are constantly occurring.

The ankle is a hinge joint. It can plantarflex (muscles used: gastrocnemius, soleus, plantaris and posterior tibialis) and dorsiflex (muscles used: tibialis anterior, extensor hallucis longus and extensor digitorum longus). When an athlete restricts his ability to plantarflex and dorsiflex within the ankle he is reducing his own range of motion causing a habitual shortened muscular movement pattern over time [each year it just gets worse! It has NOTHING to do with age]. A shortened muscle is a tight muscle and a tight muscle is a weak muscle. A weak muscle can only take so much before it gets injured or areas around it get the brunt of the weakness.

Spatting is like wearing a corset! The more the player gets the treatment the weaker his muscles around the ankle get, the less circulation he has, with decreased electrical flow and slowly reducing his ability for the lymphatic system to flush out the garbage his body produces from the feet up. It’s shocking! And players wonder why they can’t hang out in a squat! …. or they don’t even bother because let’s be honest…. I have never seen a football practice where players are hanging out in a squat.

Anytime you brace a particular part of the body compensation ensues, AUTOMATICALLY. In regards to the ankle joint, a limited range of motion will impact foot, ankle, and leg movement, as well as knee torque and hip function. This means a higher risk of injury to all those areas. Period. Time will only tell when he will get an injury or another one. It has nothing to do with previous injuries.

Have you looked at the stats for the NFL injury list this year 2015? Over 85% of injuries (NOT including blunt hits to the body) occur at the feet, ankle, knees, legs (upper and lower muscle strains/pulls), and hips/groin. If you don’t see the correlation between ankle/foot mobility and the injury list there in lies the problem.

Every single muscle in the body is important. Stop the spatting. Increase ankle stability and mobility. Always working from the feet up, the foundation upon which we are built, will help prevent injuries and maintain an athlete’s health.