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What Is a Sports Bandage?

By Erik J.J. Goserud
Updated May 23, 2024
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When sports injuries occur, there are several types of sports bandages to choose from to aid in the recovery process. Medical professionals apply a sports bandage for injuries to the joints, such as the fingers, wrists, knees, and ankles. For cuts or gashes, trainers place a traditional bandage over the wound and then secure it with athletic tape. Athletes and others may also use a sports bandage for injury prevention as well as rehabilitation.

Athletic wrap is a mainstay for a sports bandage. Wrap is a strong but flexible cloth material used to reduce pain and keep swelling down on joints, especially ankles and wrists. Trainers wash and reuse wraps. Once an ankle is wrapped, it should be secured with athletic tape.

Athletic tape is also a staple in sports bandaging. Athletes often use athletic tape to help support a sprained ankle. If the athlete has a prior history of sprains, he or she may tape up one or both ankles before practice or competitive events. Taping ankles is especially common in high-motion sports such as basketball, football, and soccer. As it can be difficult for an athlete to tape his or her own ankle, a trainer is important to assist in the process.

Widely used for finger sprains, a trainer uses athletic tape to tape the sprained finger to an uninjured one, so the two move in unison. Usually, they apply ice in between sporting events to remove swelling. Once the swelling is down and the finger is fully mobile, a sports bandage will no longer be necessary.

An alternative to athletic tape is an ankle, knee, or wrist brace. This option saves the athlete time, avoiding the wrapping process by simply tying the brace onto the foot or wrist. These braces are commonly made of leather and Velcro and often have metal lining at the ankle for added stabilization. Braces run from lightweight to heavy duty. Athletes with frequent ankle problems wear heavy-duty braces on both ankles.

For a sprained, bruised, or torn knee, a trainer will likely use a knee brace. These are bulkier sports bandages made from a combination of rubber, leather, and Velcro. Trainers may choose traditional cloth wrap to treat minor knee injuries. Athletes use kneepads for injury prevention most commonly in American football, rugby, and baseball. One negative is that a kneepad is a sports bandage that can be bulky and limit maneuverability.

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Discussion Comments

By ysmina — On May 17, 2014

A sports bandage isn't necessarily used for sports injuries. I had to wear a wrist brace for several weeks because of wrist tendinitis. But the tendinitis wasn't due to playing sports, but rather due to too much typing!

By turquoise — On May 17, 2014

@fify-- Have you heard of ice bandage/ice tape or a cold pack wrap? These are also types of sports bandages but they involve cold therapy. So either the bandage itself is cold, as in the case of ice bandages or tapes, or the wrap has a pocket where you can insert a cold pack or ice pack. Either way, they work like a sports bandage while applying cold to the area at the same time. I think this is the type of sports bandage you are looking for.

If you mostly do these things at home, then you can use a type of cold pack or ice bandage that can be frozen. If you need to use a sports bandage outside of home, then you need one that does not need to be refrigerated.

By fify — On May 17, 2014

I use athletic wrap all the time because I have a weak ankle that is prone to spraining. The wrap keeps my ankle tight so that it cannot move in odd positions during exercise and get injured. It also helps healing because it compresses the area and reduces blood flow. I just wish that there was an athletic wrap that also made my ankle cold. When I sprain my ankle, I almost always have swelling so I need to apply ice. But I can't do that with the athletic wrap on so I have to remove the bandage and wrap it again when I want to apply a cold pack.

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