How a BAPS Board Is Used in Physical Therapy

A BAPS board is a piece of exercise equipment commonly found in physical therapy clinics. BAPS is an acronym for Biomechanical Ankle Platform System. It is used to improve balance and proprioception in the ankle, knee, and hip after injury or surgery.

Physical therapist with clients in gym
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Common injuries that may require the use of a BAPS board during rehab include:

  • Ankle sprains and fractures
  • Achilles tendonitis

The BAPS board is an irregularly shaped disc with a screw hole in the middle. There are five hemispheres of varying sizes, and one of them gets screwed into the bottom of the disc, making it quite unsteady.

How to Use

On the top side of the disc is an outline of a foot. This is where you line up your own foot before using the BAPS. Once your foot is in place on the BAPS and you are holding onto something stable, you use your ankle muscles to alternatively touch the front edge and back edge of the board to the floor. Then you can alternatively touch the left and right edge of the BAPS board to the floor. The edge of the board can also be moved in circular directions with your ankle.

A typical session on the BAPS board may include moving the board forward and back 20 times, side to side 20 times, and in circles 20 times. The different directions of motions challenge different muscle groups around your ankle and leg.

The BAPS board is versatile, and it can be used with either foot-the left foot outline is on one side, and the right foot outline is on the other. To switch sides, simply unscrew the hemisphere on one side, flip the BAPS board over, and screw it into the opposite side.

Creating More or Less of a Challenge

Five different sized hemispheres are included with the BAPS board. As your balance, strength, the range of motion and proprioception improves, you can use a larger hemisphere on the bottom to increase the intensity of the exercise.

There are also five extra holes in the BAPS. These are located in specific places around the board and are designed to accept a small post on which a weight can be placed to further challenge the muscles around the ankle. Different muscles will be worked depending on where you place the post on the BAPS board.

The BAPS board can be used while sitting down, standing up with some extra support from the foot you are not using on the board or standing up with one foot on the board. Usually, seated BAPS exercises are done early after surgery or injury when weight-bearing exercises may not be tolerated. As you improve and can tolerate more weight on your lower extremity, you can move from sitting to standing with support, to finally a single leg stance.

The main purpose of using a BAPS is to improve the proprioception and strength in your legs. Proprioception refers to your body's ability to recognize where it is and how much pressure is on your body from the floor or other objects.

Some physical therapists also use the BAPS board to improve proprioception in the arms after shoulder surgery or injury.

After injury, or surgery, your body's proprioception system may not be functioning properly, and your balance may be impaired. Your physical therapist can work with you to improve your balance and proprioception, and the BAPS board may be the exercise equipment used.

The BAPS board is a specialized piece of equipment, and it should only be used under the guidance of a physical therapist or physical therapy assistant.

4 Sources
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  1. Cain MS, Garceau SW, Linens SW. Effects of a 4-Week Biomechanical Ankle Platform System Protocol on Balance in High School Athletes With Chronic Ankle Instability. J Sport Rehabil. 2017;26(1):1-7. doi:10.1123/jsr.2015-0045

  2. Cain MS, Ban RJ, Chen YP, Geil MD, Goerger BM, Linens SW. Four-week ankle-rehabilitation programs in adolescent athletes with chronic ankle instability. J Athl Train. 2020;55(8):801-810. doi: 10.4085/1062-6050-41-19

  3. Hospital for Special Surgery. Sports Rehabilitation & Performance Center Achilles Tendon Repair Guidelines.

  4. Moon KM, Kim J, Seong Y, et al. Proprioception, the regulator of motor function. BMB Rep. 2021;54(8):393-402. doi: 10.5483/bmbrep.2021.54.8.052

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.