Sports tape, more formally known as kinesio tape, is a type of tape that when applied correctly can provide stability to help prevent re-injury, relief from current injury and may even help enhance athletic performance. Regardless of your activity or skill level, kinesio tape may be a good addition to your training plan.
Taping is most often applied by a trained professional, such as a physical therapist, but can easily be applied at home as well if you know what you are doing. Some of the most common areas that are taped are the shoulder, knee, thigh and shins, but kinesio tape can be used on virtually any area of the body. The way in which the tape is applied will vary greatly depending on the outcome you are trying to achieve.
Choosing Your Site
- To target muscles, you will apply tape along the entire length of the muscle. For example, to target the calf, you will apply long strips of tape vertically along the calf from knee to ankle.
- To target joints, such the knee, you will apply tape surrounding the joint.
- Prior to applying tape, you should ensure that the area you plan to tape is dry, free of any type of irritation and free of any oils or lotions that could inhibit the tape from adhering to the skin.
- Pre-measuring and cutting your tape strips prior to starting the application process will help you in the long run. Cutting the edges into rounded edges (instead of the square corners that are normally on the edges) will help prevent the tape from rolling up and coming off earlier than planned.
Review package instructions on how to apply tape to the specific muscle or joint you are targeting. Instructions may also be available on company website for the specific brand you are using.
- Place the tape much like you would an adhesive bandage, starting with one end first.
- Stretch the tape along the area where you wish to adhere the tape, smoothing gently to remove any wrinkles.
- Once you have placed the tape where you want it, gently rub the tape up and down to activate the adhesive.
- It is best to avoid swimming and sweating for at least one hour after application to ensure that the adhesive has time to act.
- If you get your tape wet when swimming or showering, you can simply pat it dry with a towel.
- Do not use a hairdryer to dry the tape, as this will damage the integrity of the elastic and adhesive and decrease their durability.
Additional Resources for At-Home Application
A physical therapist or athletic trainer can show you how to apply the tape to reach your specific goal. Many kinesio tape manufacturers like KT Tape and STRENGTHTAPE also provide instructional videos specific to each location and type of application on their product websites. These can be useful if you choose to apply the tape without the supervision of a trained professional or if you need a refresher course on a specific method you have already tried.
Injury Management and Rehabilitation
When treating any injury, assessment by a trained medical professional is of utmost importance. According to a Sports Medicine review article published in 2011, when used as part of an injury treatment regimen, kinesio tape has been shown to help:
- Increase circulation of both venous and lymphatic fluid
- Strengthen weak muscles, which in turn improves joint and muscle alignment
- Relieve abnormal muscle tension
- Reduce pressure on the pain receptors, which helps decrease overall pain
The role of sports tape in performance enhancement is one that does not have a great deal of research to back it up at this point, but is a hot topic in the field of sports performance research.
The tape is very elastic and can be stretched to fit needed areas, while holding muscles and tissues in place. During movement, the tape is stretched even further but can return to its beginning position fairly quickly after the movement is ceased. The theory is that the tape will help muscles return to their resting position quicker and with less exertion, thus enhancing performance.
Seek Professional Guidance
Kinesiology tape could be a beneficial addition to your treatment or training regimen, but will be most beneficial if applied by a trained practitioner. Before beginning any new practice, it is best to discuss your options and goals with a trained professional to determine if kinesio taping is right for you. To find a Certified Kinesiology Taping Practitioner near you, visit The Kinesiology Association Taping International website.