How To Improvise An Ankle Brace – Ultimate Guideline
Anybody who spends a lot of time in the great outdoors knows Mother Nature can be a dangerous beast. Whether she’s throwing curve balls in the form of thunderstorms, angry wildlife or treacherous terrains, it’s important to be prepared. For any keen hiker, climber, mountain biker or camper, knowledge of basic first aid techniques is strongly recommended.
One of the most useful skills, by far, is knowing how to improvise an ankle brace out of items found in your rucksack. Ideally, you should be taking some first aid essentials (bandages, antiseptic, medical tape, etc.) with you on every excursion. However, if there comes a time when the only option is a DIY solution, you can make a brace using articles of clothing.
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Ultimate Guideline How To Improvise An Ankle Brace
This guide to treating a lower leg injury outdoors will explain how to improvise an ankle brace.
Creating an Ankle Brace with Medical Tape
If you need to treat an ankle injury sustained outdoors, check for athletic tape, climber’s tape or (wide) medical tape. It should be at least two inches in diameter. To apply, make sure the skin on the injured leg is as clean and dry as possible. Dirt and moisture will make it harder for the tape to stick securely.
If you can move the leg without risk of further injury, gently align the foot and leg in a ninety degree angle (as when standing). It might be easier to keep the leg in this position if it’s pressed against a palm or other flat surface. Place the end of the tape just above the big toe; it should stick above the toe but below the bend in the foot.
Now, wind it under the ball of the foot. Take it under the foot and back out to the other side where it needs to snake across the natural bend in the foot. Finally, wind it around the leg (above the ankle) and secure it tightly at an upward facing angle. It should sit above the ankle but below the calf on the outside of the leg.
Add 3-4 more pieces of tape. They must follow the same line as the first but without sitting directly on top of it. Stretch three more pieces from mid-calf (still on the outside of the leg) to the underside of the foot.
Creating an Ankle Brace with Spare Clothes
If you don’t have any bandages or tape, the next best option is to use an item of spare clothing or a piece of fabric. Blankets, jackets and T-shirts are preferable choices. First, roll your chosen item into a tight tube shape. Again, the injured foot and leg should be in a ninety degree position or as close as possible to it.
Carefully stretch the rolled material across the middle of the foot’s sole. On both sides of the ankle, pull it tight (so it aligns with the leg). If you have any kind of tape or similar adhesive, use it to secure the material by wrapping it around the ball of the foot, base of the ankle and top of the calf. If you don’t have tape, do your best to improvise with whatever is around.
Consider removing your shoelaces and using them to hold the makeshift brace in place. If there’s a chance of broken bones, add a DIY splint. This can be anything that’s long, thin and strong such as a tree branch, hiking pole or climbing tool. Press it against the outside of the injured leg (and hold it there) before securing it in place with the DIY brace.
Knowing How to Respond to Breaks and Sprains
In a true emergency, you’ve got to put your trust in whatever equipment happens to be available. While neither of these braces is ideal for a serious ankle or lower leg break, they may be the best option you have at the time. If the injury appears to be a ankle sprain, and you have the choice to pick between a tape brace and a ‘T-shirt’ brace, use the tape.
If you suspect a break, it’s best to keep the ankle and lower leg area as still as possible. You may find this easier to do with a DIY splint (as detailed in the section above). Use one or two lengths of a rigid, hard material (such as a stick), held against the leg, to force the ankle to remain motionless.
To distinguish between a break and a sprain, use the doctor approved Ottawa Ankle Rules. There are two questions. Can the injured party stand up and/or put weight on the ankle? Does the injured party feel pain when lightly touched a) on the rounded ankle bone, on the outside of the leg b) just below the rounded ankle bone, on the inside of the leg or c) along the bottom edge of the foot, in alignment with the little toe?
If the injured party CAN stand on the ankle and is largely pain free, they probably have a sprain. If possible, tape up the injury and seek medical treatment.