Kinesio Tape – More than Just a Summer Olympics Fashion Statement?

Along with their work-out attire, this year’s Olympic athletes have been sporting colorful tape.  Spectators have seen the images – strips in various shades running up, down and across the bodies of athletes. Curious to learn if this trend was more than a fashion statement, we asked one of our pediatric orthopedic surgeons, Dr. John Schlechter, who specializes in sports medicine, a few questions.

What’s the deal with that colorful tape we’re seeing on this year’s Olympic athletes?

That colorful tape is called Kinesio tape, and has actually been to the Olympics before.  Beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings, who just won her third gold medal, wore a colorful mesh pattern on her operated shoulder when she competed in Beijing four years ago. Now, during the London games, many athletes, especially divers, swimmers and volleyball players, have been seen with the tape.

Who developed it?

Dr. Kenzo Kase, a Japanese chiropractor, invented the method about 30 years ago when he started taping Sumo wrestlers to relieve their pain.

What is it used for?

Kinesio tape can be used for many reasons.  In some cases, it helps to relieve pain and inflammation. But more often in the Olympics, it is used to help stabilize injured joints or help to unload injured and aching muscles. The tape gives the athlete support for aching muscles that might hamper performance.

How is it different from other athletic tape?

Regular athletic tape is rigid and does not move with the athlete. It’s better used when you need to stop motion. Kinesio tape, on the other hand, stretches in one direction and then as it’s stretched, it snaps back like a rubber band.  That’s how it is used to help the muscles and joints, and why it’s also popular with athletes.  It allows the athlete to move with less pain.

Is there a special technique for applying the tape?

There is a special technique for applying the tape.  It’s best to learn from an athletic trainer or physical therapist.

Where can people get the tape?

Most sporting goods stores carry various kinesio tape options.

Dr. John Schlechter is a board certified pediatric orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine and arthroscopy for children and adolescents. He is an active part of the clinical faculty for the Western University of Health Sciences and serves as the team physician for several local high schools. Learn more about CHOC’s Orthopaedic Institute.

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