If you're going out for football—or any other contact sport—and you have an ankle that worries you, the surest way to protect it is first to shore it up with proper wrapping, and then forget about the possibilities of twisting it. For even the soundest ankle joint is none too stable (SI, Sept. 12), and worrying won't make it any steadier. Strapping is the only solution, whether you're playing in the Big Ten or in the backyard league.
There are many ways to bind up an ankle, each of them effective. But the simplest and most accommodating for a normal amount of stress and strain is what is called a "figure eight" wrap. The "figure eight," illustrated below, is adapted from the method used by Army's head athletic trainer, Roland Bevan, and is designed to brace the outside of the foot, the side most likely to buckle under. When applying, the sole of the foot must always be held perpendicular to the leg. You need a 48-inch elastic bandage, the two-inch-variety sold in any drugstore (adhesive tape can be used but is difficult to handle). The trick is to keep wrapping smoothly and snugly. It may require a few practice turns, but you will soon get the hang of it.
Start on the top of instep. Make two turns, pulling up on outside of foot.
Pass over the starting point, then around the inside and outside anklebones.
Return to start, continue under the arch and pull diagonally back toward heel.
Go under the outside anklebone, over inside anklebone and across instep.
Pass under instep, then pull diagonally toward heel, below inside anklebone.
Carry wrap around the outside anklebone, over arch and under the instep.
Draw up on the outside of foot, over instep. Strap around the leg to end.
Anchor loose end with piece of tape. Wrap should feel snug but not tight.