Injury prevention is a key reason why athletes tape their feet and ankles, particularly in sports that carry a high risk of injury because of contact. Ankle taping can also help enhance the healing of foot and ankle injuries, and allow an earlier return to competition after injuries such as sprains or bruises. Including tape over the shoes, called spatting, can add additional support.
U.S. football involves heavy contact on a consistent basis. Athletic taping over the ankles and feet can help support the joint and act as a brace to prevent sprains or other injuries caused by the collisions that happen between football players. Research published by Western Kentucky University explains that spatting restricts ankle motion more effectively by reducing the risk of injuries caused by rolling or spraining the ankle.
Athletic taping over the ankle and foot of a football player can provide support to a joint, allowing the player to better control his body movement. The Sports Injury Clinic website explains that athletic taping offers enhanced proprioception, or kinaesthetic feel, to the football player as he runs and changes direction. This improved coordination not only prevents injuries such as rolled ankles, but can be beneficial to a running back making a quick change of direction, or a defensive player needing to plant his feet before tackling an opposing player.
The process of taping over shoes can be an important aspect in pregame preparation for a football player. Fred Zamberletti was a head athletic trainer for the NFL's Minnesota Vikings. Zamberletti explained that athletic taping is “part of the ritual of getting ready to play the game” for football players. Vikings player Kelly Gregg also explained the psychological benefit to USA Today of athletic taping for a football player. “If I wasn’t taped, I’d feel like something wasn’t right,” said Gregg. “I like everything real tight and firm.”
Athletic taping has uses beyond injury prevention, and can be used as part of the uniform for professional football players. Athletic tape is used to cover up logos that might not be worn by league rules, and NFL players used pink tape around their shoes as a way to promote breast cancer awareness.