What is athletic tape and should you use it?


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That adhesive elastic cotton strip; it's been showing up more and more on the body parts of athletes — both professional and amateur. Ever wonder what it’s for and if you are missing out on something?

Athletic tape (also called sports tape, or Kinesiology tape) saw a rise in popularity after the 2008 Olympic Games when a manufacturer donated samples to the participating athletes. It got even more attention at the 2012 Games.

Now, you can see high-profile athletes wearing athletic tape all the time. They are also now sold in a variety of cool colors and patterns, making them even more appealing to the masses. The problem is, they can get super pricey at $20 a box, and application is tricky for first-time users. While they are meant to last up to three days, that isn’t always the case.

What is sports tape?

Dr. Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor and acupuncturist, developed a tape in the mid-1970s that "possessed the proper degree of elasticity, and that lifts the skin microscopically." The tape's properties are based on a study of kinesiology or the study of human movement.

It is supposed to help stabilize injured muscles and joints and alleviate pain by lifting the skin and allowing improved blood and lymph flow.

Other potential therapeutic benefits include:

  • Pain relief;
  • Reduced inflammation;
  • Enhanced performance;
  • Quicker recovery time; and
  • Stabilizes an injured muscle or joint.

So is it worth taping up before a workout or playing a sport? It depends on who you ask. While many athletes love it, there are experts out there who are skeptical.

"There's nothing magical in the tape, it certainly can't improve your performance or make you into Superman, but the way people use the tape is to lift the skin, reduce the pressure and that helps relieve pain and swelling," Kevin Anderson, managing director of Kinesio U.K. told Reuters.


Can it be that using athletic tape is nothing more than a psychological comfort?

"I'm still struggling to come to terms with how tape that is placed on skin can have any real, major effect on performance, other than potentially, a psychological effect,"  John Brewer, head of sport and exercise sciences and director of sport at the University of Bedfordshire in the U.K., told WebMD. "The actual putting on of the tape sometimes is almost part of that ritual. It's almost part of their uniform for the sport that they're doing, part of their kit. It makes them feel ready for action."

Whatever the case may be, more research is needed in the field of sport taping. In the meantime, if you are comfortable spending the money, there’s no harm in trying it for yourself.