Chris Gabriel, OCS, CSCS
Elastic sports tape, often known as kinesiology tape, was first introduced to the US market in the 1990’s, quickly gaining a following among runners, volleyball competitors and football players. These days everyone from weekend warriors to Olympians athletes can be seen taping up.
Sports tape can be helpful for stimulating or facilitating weak muscles, relaxing tight muscles and helping pull out inflammation and bruising. Some companies even claim their sports tape enhances performance and recovery. Despite positive feedback from therapists, athletic trainers, and patients, research on the benefits of this type of taping is still unclear.
As a physical therapist, I find sports tape to be helpful in providing injury relief if used properly and on the right client. Here are a few tips to get the maximum benefit out of sports tape.
- Placement matters: Treating injuries with a random tape pattern doesn’t help. I’ve seen tape benefit runners with shin splints and IT band injuries, but it must be applied properly by an expert.
- Tension: A common mistake I see is sports tape that is applied and pulled too tight. Less tension is typically better and allows sports tape to do its job.
- Less is more: I’ve had patients come in with as many as five layers of tape on. The tape is most effective when placed directly on the skin. More tape and more layers do not improve outcomes.
- Life cycle: Sports tape can stay on for a long time but begins to lose elasticity and therefore benefit after a few days. I recommend changing the tape every three to five days. Not only does it help with elasticity, but keeps the sports tape from irritating the skin by staying on too long.
- Quality: Sports tape is expensive, but buying a cheaper brand can be a waste of money. Less expensive sports tapes often don’t stick as well. There is a noticeable quality difference, invest in a quality brand.
Bruise, 1-3 post-tape
IT band tape
If you are injured, sports tape won’t replace the need for a proper evaluation. A physical therapist or athletic trainer can provide a treatment plan and tools, which may include the use of sports tape, to get you back to the activity you love, quicker.
Chris Gabriel, PT, OCS (Board Certified Orthopedic Specialist), CSCS (Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist), practices physical therapy with the OrthoCarolina Wellness Center. Chris and his team treat a range of patients for orthopedic and sports medicine needs. He enjoys working with various local high school, college, and professional sports teams.