When kids get scrapes, it’s Band-Aids to the rescue. Though athletes can still use Band-Aids to cover cuts, they turn to athletic tape to for more serious boo-boos. Indeed, athletes worldwide— from high school heroes to international phenoms— use tape to help support injured joints, overstretched ligaments, worn muscles, and nearly every body part in-between.
Tale of the Tape — Why It Matters
A sprained ankle is one of the most common injuries in sports. Adding insult to injury, athletes with prior sprains are particularly prone to repeat damage, especially if they return to the field without fully healing
In addition to ankles, athletic tape is commonly used on wrists, shins, and fingers to provide added support. Athletic tape is usually made from cotton, making it sweat resistant as it helps stabilize trouble areas. Some tapes are designed to adhere directly to the skin (ideal for smaller jobs) while others only stick to themselves (usually on larger joints that use a pre-wrap for under the tape). A word to the wise: when it comes to standard athletic tape, you tend to get what you pay for; cheaper tape usually means lower-quality adhesive.
Beyond the standard tape varieties is Kinesio Tape. While most athletic tape promotes rigidity, the elastic Kinesio Tape is designed to stretch with and support muscles as they move. The manufacturers even claim it also reduces overall muscle fatigue, re-educates injured muscles, and improves circulation. Its effectiveness in some of these areas is up for debate, and the tape has been shown to produce little added benefit when it comes to improving muscular performance
Taping Up — The Answer/Debate
Taping has obvious benefits for the injury-prone, and the big question revolves around choosing the right type for a given situation. With its stiff restrictive quality, standard athletic tape is effective in preventing movement where it needs to be prevented (though watch out— taping too tightly can restrict circulation, which can be dangerous and feel like a full-body turtleneck). Kinesio Tape, though perhaps not the cure-all the makers claim, allows for a full range of motion while supporting muscles during movement or therapeutic usage. No matter the need, athletic tape is a trusted resource for both playing it safe and looking Dick Butkus-cool.
Updated November 2011