Basketball players will complete between 40-60 short sprints, over 40 jumps, and approximately 100 high-intensity basketball-specific movements that commonly involve direction changes during a game (Ben Abdelkrim et al., 2007). These actions, especially when landing from a jump, or stopping suddenly to decelerate and change direction, can often place an athlete in vulnerable positions that increase the risk of injury (Carter et al., 2011; Ellapen et al., 2012). A frequent injury experienced by basketball players is a sprain of the ankle ligaments (Fong et al., 2007). Most ankle sprains involve the lateral ligaments, which can be torn as a result of forced plantar flexion and inversion of the foot, exceeding the physiological range of motion (Bot et al., 2003). Fong et al. (2007) reported that 15.9% of all injuries in basketball players involve the ankle joint, and over 80% of these injuries involve ligament sprains. Depending on the severity of the injury, the loss of playing time can range from several days to several months, and individuals will also have a high risk of re-injury (van Rijn et al., 2008). This places an emphasis on preventative methods that can reduce the incidence of ankle ligament injuries.
Taping or bracing of the ankle is often used by athletes as a way to protect and support this joint (Garrick and Requa, 1973; Olmsted et al., 2004). The use of rigid tape is perhaps the most common method used, with the aim of reducing joint range of motion, such that movements predisposing an athlete to injury can be restricted (Wilkerson, 2002). In addition to reducing injury risk, taping may also influence the activity of the muscles about the ankle joint, including the tibialis anterior (TA), peroneus longus (PL), peroneus brevis (PB), and soleus (SOL), as they are not only involved in movement, but also act as ankle stabilizers (Gribble et al., 2006; Hertel, 2002; Ross et al., 2004; Wilkerson, 2002). There are conflicting results as to the effects that taping may have on muscle activity. For example, research has indicated that ankle taping can increase (Lohrer et al., 1999), have no effect (Gribble et al., 2006; Hopper et al., 1999), or decrease (Alt et al., 1999) peroneal muscle activity during actions involving ankle inversion. There is also a lack of empirical data which has investigated ankle joint muscle activity when the joint is taped during sport-specific movements (Ambegaonkar et al., 2011; Gribble et al., 2006; Hopper et al., 1999), and little analysis of the peak amplitude of the electromyography (EMG) signal as a representation of activity and force (Lockie et al., 2014; Rahnama et al., 2006), particularly within the context of ankle taping, change-of-direction, and agility. Although it is not possible to directly measure muscle force via EMG, there is an association between muscle activity and force, from which force output can be inferred during movement (Kuriki et al., 2012).
This is important, as ankle taping should provide protection, while not detrimentally affecting athletic movements and performance. However, there have been divergent findings as to whether restricted ankle motion adversely affects an athlete when they need to change direction. Pienkowski et al. (1995) found that ankle bracing did not affect basketballers completing an 18.3-meter (m) shuttle-run, while Verbrugge (1996) determined that taping with the modified Gibney technique did not reduce the time to complete a custom-designed agility course in collegiate male athletes. In contrast, Ambegaonkar et al. (2011) found that ankle taping, with a relatively restrictive closed basket-weave and heel locks technique, did increase the time to complete a right-boomerang run agility test in healthy adults, and Burks et al. (1991) established that 10-yard shuttle run performance decreased in varsity athletes when both ankles were taped. Additionally, there has been relatively little analysis regarding the effects on athletic performance when using strapping tape as an injury prevention measure in healthy basketball players (Ambegaonkar et al., 2011; Gribble et al., 2006). From a preventative perspective, a modification to the subtalar sling method could be beneficial (Sacco et al., 2006; Wilkerson, 1991), as it should reduce frontal plane motion (i.e. inversion and eversion), without providing too much restriction to sagittal plane movements (i.e. plantar and dorsi flexion). This is important, due to the need for the ankle to assist with force attenuation in the sagittal plane and force generation during stance (Bezodis et al., 2008; Hunter et al., 2005). A further issue is that most of the 'agility' tests used when analyzing ankle taping involved efforts that incorporated planned changes of direction. In sports such as basketball, unpredictable movement patterns predominate.
The definition for agility states that it incorporates the initiation of body movement, change of direction, or rapid acceleration or deceleration, which involves a physical and cognitive component, such as recognition of a stimulus, reaction, or execution of a physical response (Sheppard and Young, 2006). Previous research has shown that there is limited commonality between planned change-of-direction movements and reactive agility (Farrow et al., 2005; Lockie et al., 2013; Sheppard et al., 2006; Young et al., 2015), indicating they are two different actions. When investigating rugby union players, Wheeler and Sayers (2010) determined that, when compared to a 45[degrees] planned cut, a reactive cut featured less lateral movement in the direction of the final run. As there are differences in the kinematics of reactive agility (Brown et al., 2014; Wheeler and Sayers, 2010), there could also be modifications in the muscle activity between these actions (Lockie et al., 2014; Rand and Ohtsuki, 2000), which could be further affected by the use of rigid tape (Alt et al., 1999). Given that lateral movements can place athletes in compromising positions with respect to injury (Carter et al., 2011; Ellapen et al., 2012), the ankle muscle activity associated with lateral cutting in both planned and reactive conditions must be defined.
If there is a perceived detriment to athletic performance, athletes who have healthy ankles may not use ankle taping (Wilkerson, 1991), which may increase their risk of injury. Therefore, this research will analyze the effects of ankle taping on planned change-of-direction and reactive agility performance as measured by Yshaped agility test time, in addition to activity of the muscles about the ankle joint (TA, PL, PB, and SOL) in experienced basketballers. To increase the ecological validity of the study, subjects performed planned and reactive tests on a basketball court, and had both ankles un-taped or taped. To maintain a specific focus for this study, comparisons were only made between the un-taped and taped conditions, and not between legs, or between planned and reactive cutting. It was hypothesized that taping would not affect planned or reactive agility performance, nor would taping affect the muscles responsible for supporting and stabilizing the ankle during cutting movements.
Twenty (n = 20) experienced male basketball players (age = 22.30 [+ or -] 3.97 years; height = 1.84 [+ or -] 0.09 m; body mass = 85.96 [+ or -] 11.88 kilograms) from semi-professional basketball squads competing in the highest state-based level of competition in Australia volunteered for the study. Subjects were recruited if they: were over 18 years of age; played basketball at a semi-professional level; were available for all testing sessions; and did not have any existing medical conditions that would compromise participation in the study, with a particular focus on lower-limb pathologies. To provide an emphasis on the effects of preventative ankle taping (as opposed to taping used to treat or support an existing injury), subjects were excluded if they had: an ankle injury in the past year; chronic ankle instability as diagnosed by their personal medical practitioner; any orthopedic condition (e.g. knee sprains or lower-body muscle strains) diagnosed by their personal medical practitioner that caused difficulty running or cutting; or were currently using a prophylactic ankle supports or bracing under the direction of a medical practitioner due to a previous ankle injury (Gribble et al., 2006). The methodology and procedures used in this study were approved by the institutional ethics committee, and conformed to the policy statement with respect to the Declaration of Helsinki. All subjects received a clear explanation of the study, including the risks and benefits of participation, and written informed consent was obtained prior to testing.
Data was collected over two sessions conducted on an indoor basketball court with a sprung wooden floor. Prior to data collection in the first testing session, the subject's age, height, and body mass was recorded. Height was measured barefoot using a stadiometer (Ecomed Trading, Seven Hills, Australia). Body mass was recorded using digital scales (Tanita Corporation, Tokyo, Japan). All subjects completed the same standardized warm-up before both sessions without any ankle taping. This consisted of five minutes of jogging around the basketball court at a self-selected pace, 10 minutes of dynamic stretching of the lower limbs, and progressive speed runs (two runs each of 50%, 60%, 70%, and 90% of perceived maxi mum) over the length of one half of the court (14 m). Immediately after the warm-up, subjects then had the EMG sensors placed on the required muscles (TA, PL, PB, and SOL) on both legs, and their ankles taped depending on the testing session. Following these procedures, the subjects began the testing session.
During the first testing session, subjects completed a 10-m sprint for EMG normalization purposes. For all sessions, subjects were...