It’s becoming more and more common to see people either in the gym or out running on the street with colourful tape affixed to their bodies. No, they aren’t part of some new secret society – in fact, they’re progressive-thinking athletes, partaking in the latest form of sports taping.
The concept of using tape in sports isn’t new. Indeed, people have been using them for more than forty years. Generally, athletes use tape in injury prevention, and to help stabilize weak or previously injured areas. Traditional, supportive taping can help with some of the more common forms of sports injuries such as sprains, pulled muscles or tendons, and cuts and bruises. These tapes are quite familiar; they’re generally white, made from a non-flexible material, and are wrapped around and around body parts such as wrists, ankles, elbows and arms.
If the tapes you’ve seen are more colourful or strangely-shaped, they are most likely of the kinesiology variety. Becoming popular in the last few years, this new form of taping has taken the fitness scene by storm. Very easily recognizable from their wide range of colors, these new tapes are stretchy and thin and are applied directly to the flesh permitting an enhanced range of motion and allowing the skin to breathe freely.
Contraindicated specifically for pain management, kinesiology tapes aren’t intended to support limbs or restrict movement, and unlike supportive tapes, which are generally applied only for the duration of exercise, they can be worn at all times. Moreover, because they don’t add pressure to the flesh, kinesiology tapes permit important lymphatic drainage, a necessity in healing swollen or damaged tissue.
Some of the major benefits of sports tapes are:
- reducing inflammation
- supporting joints, ligaments and muscles
- strengthening alignment to prevent injury
- improving blood circulation
It’s important to remember that sports tapes aren’t intended to resolve injuries – they exist for temporary relief and support. Additionally, an injured athlete without tape is more likely to protect an injured limb by favoring the other, and a few wraps of tape can deliver the confidence necessary to perform at normal levels. On the other hand, taping an injury to maintain performance is a surefire way to cause more damage. If you hurt yourself, check with a professional before getting back out there.