Common Myths and Misconceptions Around Taping in Sport

By Rob Madden, SPORTTAPE Academy course director and Senior Physiotherapist at The Centre for Health & Human Performance (CHHP) (and all around nice guy!)

I wanted to write a short post on my experience of how and when I use tape and some of the misconceptions I feel surround it. It is not a summary of evidence but draws on my personal opinions in this field. For this I draw on my sports physiotherapy experience largely but not solely from the following sports:

  • Snowboarding
  • Freestyle Skiing
  • Skeleton Bobsleigh
  • Judo
  • Boxing and MMA
  • Basketball
  • Canoe slalom

This is where my bias/experience lies as well as being an advocate for using tape in an APPROPRIATE manner. You could argue the above sports carry a higher risk of injury and in my experience the reality is that it is quite rare for the athlete to be completely symptom/injury free in many of these sports. That does not mean they are not winning or getting a podium either.

A quick point on resilience

Ultimately the goal when working with athletes is to make them as resilient as possible both mentally & physically. This comes from the athlete themselves. However it can be dependent on shared goals and philosophies between a tight multi-disciplinary team of coaches, strength / performance coaches and clinicians. If an athlete is injury free, performing well and not on the treatment table or requiring tape then of course this is an ideal, positive position. We should always strive for this.

Resilience = ‘an occurrence of rebounding or springing back’ ‘ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like’ - Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd

My philosophy around the use of taping in sport:

  • I may use kinesiology tape
  • I may use rigid tape
  • I may combine kinesiology tape and rigid tape together
  • I may choose NOT to tape
  • I DO NOT smother my athletes in tape for performance gains or any other reason ‘unnecessarily’
  • I DO NOT encourage reliance on tape and challenge every single athlete that asks me the question 'Can you tape me up before I train/compete’?

Following the above points, my clinical reasoning and experience informs me to make a decision around whether I will TAPE or not. If I use it, I educate alongside it and do not encourage reliance/dependency. I simply use the tape for a short desired period (sometimes just as a one off) where I see a positive change in pain or function in relation to the athlete’s training or performance environment.

Rules for taping

I have recently read of someone else's experiences that many of the athletes in the triathlon arena are overusing the tape and being very reliant on it. Although I regularly work with recreational to elite level runners in clinical practice I have not worked within endurance sport full time and so I found this observation very interesting and took a lot from it.

I drew the following thoughts:

  • These athletes are not being educated appropriately as to why the tape may be useful or detrimental to their injury and performance
  • Somehow dependency is being triggered in that athlete which I agree is far from a healthy mindset in the performance arena
  • However this could be said for a number of other interventions commonly overused in elite sport: massage, recovery 'gimmicks', manipulation, etc.

As Adam Meakins said recently in a post, sometimes the hardest thing to do in sport is to do NOTHING. If that athlete has been over treated for years it can be incredibly challenging changing beliefs and expectations.

Some common myths and misconceptions I believe surround the use of tape:

  • Tape DOES NOT 'hold you together'
  • Tape DOES NOT get rid of pain completely
  • Tape IS NOT proven to make your brain feel there is something wrong either

Thanks for reading. I would love to hear your comments and reflections on your own experience in sport and taping. You can comment below or fire me a tweet or two @RobMaddenPT


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