What WAS that body tape on Olympic athletes?

Kinesio tape has been around for decades, but during the London 2012 Olympics, it was prominent in all types of colors and patterns on all types of athletes. It is designed to support and stabilize the joints and muscles without affecting circulation and range of motion. It is also used  to treat pain. The tape is thin and pliable, thus different from athletic tape used to keep an injured joint from bending to prevent further injury. As described in an online article by CNN , Japanese chiropractor and acupuncturist Kenzo Kase designed the taping method in 1979, according to his company, Kinesio. He thought the standard taping methods of the time were too restrictive and may even extend injuries, because they inhibited the flow of inflammatory fluids beneath the skin. A flexible tape that could be applied to injured muscles, he believed, would stimulate circulation through its tug on skin and start clearing out the damage. Although some medical experts express skepticism, believeing the tape is no more than a placebo, the Kinesio company claims to have trained more than 100,000 practitioners around the world on how to use the tape, which was in evidence by 80 countries at the London Games, claims a company spokesperson.

Dr. Jonathan Dunn, an orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Multi-Specialty HealthCare recently spoke about this topic.  Dr. Dunn stated that other taping techniques have been shown to be beneficial in treating and preventing some conditions, including the prevention of recurrent ankle sprains. Taping for other disorders including patellofemoral syndrome (pain in the front of the knee) remains controversial.  Kinesio taping is a technique that uses an elastic tape to theoretically improve blood and lymph flow, improve muscle strength and function, and alleviate pain, but these have not been substantiated in the medical literature. Despite its acceptance by several high level, highly visible athletes, so far there is little scientific evidence to show that it provides a significant benefit beyond the placebo effect. Dr. Dunn feels that more rigorous, well-designed studies are needed.

Photo Credit: Ryan Hyde

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