Kinesiotape for Gamers: Support or Carry?

KT tape, kinesiotape, or kinesiology tape is a stretchy, usually colorful tape used by manual therapists. You may have seen it on players at LANs on the wrist, forearm, or shoulder. 

Tape manufacturers claim it will make your muscles stronger, your movements more coordinated, and your injuries less painful. Pretty bold claims for a piece of stretchy tape! The lure here is that all you have to do to fix your ouchie is just slap on some tape. Just keep doing it every time you play and everything will be fine. 

But…what if you run out of tape? Or the competition you’re in doesn’t allow it? What if you don’t want to permanently rely on an external device to control your pain? Let’s talk about what kinesiotape can and can’t do, whether you should use it, and how to use it if you do.

Kinesiotape: The Research

Kinesiotape has been the subject of a good deal of research, with mixed results. For example, this study used kinesio taping to help people with lateral epicondylitis, or pain and inflammation of the forearm muscles and tendons that control the wrist and finger extensor muscles. The subjects were divided in to the three groups below:

(A) Real Taping(B) Sham Taping(C) Control
Correct according to the researchers taping along with the same exercises as the controlIncorrectly applied tape along with the same exercises as the controlExercises only

The sample size was small (only 10 subjects in each group), but tape plus exercise showed larger improvements in pain during daily activity and in arm disability. 

It’s important to note something here: yes, the tape helped with pain and ability to perform activities more compared to no tape, but it was not only the tape helping. Every group had improvements and every group performed exercises. Even the control group improved with only exercise and no tape. The tape was useful but built on what was already happening with the exercises. It’s also important to note that the “incorrect” or “sham” taping style used in this study is, in fact, a style of taping that other clinicians use. This illustrates one of the difficulties of studying kinesiotape: there are a variety of widely-used methods with appropriate clinical reasoning to back them, and comparing methods can be difficult.

A review by Nelson investigated whether kinesiotape was useful in the management of chronic, non-specific low back pain. When the results of the studies included were aggregated and compared, the author found that…

Kinesiotape is no substitute for traditional physical therapy or exercise, but may be effective as a supportive therapy to increase range of motion, muscular endurance and motor control. It can help, but should only be part of a rehabilitation plan, not all of it.

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Another claim that’s often made of kinesiotape is that it increases proprioception. Proprioception is your ability to sense how your body is positioned in space, and is important for quick, precise movements. After you sprain your ankle, it’s common for your proprioception in that specific area to be worse. This can lead to future sprains, since your body has a harder time recognizing and responding when your ankle is in a more vulnerable position. This study investigated whether using kinesiotape would improve balance, allow you to produce more force, or in general improve how well your ankle works in both healthy and injured populations. The evidence wasn’t there. Regardless of population, the tape did not increase athletic performance.

When there’s a lot of research on a topic, it’s not surprising for the quality and results to be mixed. This is exactly the case for research on kinesiotape. For example: some people claim it causes increased muscle activation, like this study. Others conclude it has no effect on muscle force production like this one and this one.

Verdict: Kinesiotape for Support

All this conflicting research can make drawing conclusions very challenging. But here’s what it boils down to:

The tape can help modulate your pain perception. Think of when you rub your elbow after you just banged it against the table to make it feel better. Same idea.

Everything else like better athletic performance, faster muscle firing, or better prioprioception? There are too many contradictions to make a solid conclusion.

So, let kinesiotape be the support to your carry. Exercise, changes to your loading schedule, managing your stress, sleeping better and improving your diet are all going to have a bigger impact on your injury than just getting taped up. 



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