Sports tape, or rigid tape, is a common fixture in many sporting organisations. My local footy club spends several thousands of dollars on tape each season. We see professional netballers all taping their ankles as a preventative measure, and footballers covered in tape across shoulders, thumbs, knees and ankles. They like the support of the tape, knowing that they are protected from injury… but is the tape actually doing anything??
Rigid tape does provide support for joints. However, current research shows the ‘support’ element of taping only lasts for the first 45 minutes of wear (1). Once we start exercising and sweating, the tape loses its rigidity, and the tape is barely restricting the joint. You can still roll your ankle, and pop out your shoulder while they are taped. But the severity of the injury can sometimes be lessened with taping.
Peace of Mind
Having your ankles taped may make you feel better, like you are protected and your joints are being supported. It can give you a psychological edge to not hold back. (2)
The feeling of the tape sticking to your skin and hair as you move increases the ‘positional’ signals between that area and our brain. We become more aware of that part of our body, and may subconsciously protect the area through muscle contraction. The tape can act as a reminder that we have a weak/sore/injured ankle and we need to look after it.
Particularly in the days following an injury, if sports tape, a sling, or a brace is used, we create a visual reminder that our body is injured. These cues can help some players remember that they are carrying an injury and need to be extra careful with how they move. (3)
Tape is not harmful – it won’t cause weakness of the muscles around the joints, and so long as the skin can tolerate the glue, taping can be a beneficial tool for chronic sporting injuries.
(1) Best, R., Mauch, F., Bohle, C., Huth, J., & Bruggemann, P. (2014). Residual mechanical effectiveness of external ankle tape before and after competitive professional soccer performance. Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine, 24(1): 51-7. doi: 10.1097.JSM.0b013e31829ddc74.
(2) Halim-Kertanegara, S., Raymond, J., Hiller, C.E., Kilbreath, S.L., & Refshauge, K.M. (2016). The effect of ankle taping on functional performance in participants with functional ankle instability. Physical Therapy in Sport. doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2016.03.005.
(3) Kuni, B., Mussler, J., Kalkum, E., Schmitt, H., & Wolf, S.I. (2015). Effect of kinesiotaping, non-elastic taping and bracing on segmental foot kinematics during drop landing in healthy subjects and subjects with chronic ankle instability. Physiotherapy. doi:10.1016/j.physio.2015.07.004.