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Athletic Tape: A Supportive, Sporty Friend
Physical therapists may recommend you try out athletic tape to enhance performance or prevent injury. Learn why with Groupon’s look at its two main forms.
During the 2012 world games in London, many athletes took the field wearing colorful strips of tape stretched in complex patterns across their arms, legs, and torsos. These weren’t coded messages to fans watching on TV, but rather a type of athletic tape called kinesiology or elastic therapeutic tape.
All athletic tape claims to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and enhance performance by supporting and stabilizing muscles and connective tissue. Kinesiology tape is a higher-tech take on the traditional stiff, white athletic tape—sometimes called surgical or medical tape—that sports therapists have used for ages. Wrapped around ankles, wrists, and other joints, it acts as a brace to restrict movement and thus prevent injury. Meanwhile, the white color comes from zinc oxide, an antibacterial substance, to ward off infections. Many studies have shown that the tape reduces strain and helps prevent sprains, especially when used on ankles.
Not as much research exists on the benefits of kinesiology tape, first developed by Japanese chiropractor Kenzo Kase in the 1970s. This type of athletic tape allows for a much-greater range of motion. It’s designed to act as a lightweight, external support to muscles, ligaments, and tendons that allows athletes to work through pain and injuries. Where skin is uncomfortably tight, the tape is applied to slightly lift it and help drain away lymphatic fluid, potentially reducing swelling. Although many of the studies performed so far haven’t shown significant results—and even Kase admits that the benefits he’s seen aren’t fully understood—that doesn’t mean that athletes aren’t getting something out of it. Even if it only supplies the confidence to reach for a little more force or speed, kinesiology tape likely will stick around.