Over the years, we’ve seen more and more people walking around with sports tape on. Bright colours, fancy patterns and sometimes taping that looks more like displays of art than anything of help. A common question we get asked in the physiotherapy clinic is – when should i use sports tape?

There are many uses and benefits of sports tape which comes in various different shapes, sizes, textures and strengths. Rigid sports tape is the most common form of taped used here at Motus Health and Performance. I will outline why below, whilst touching on two other tapes commonly used in our practice.

When should i use rigid sports tape?

Rigid tape is the most common tape used in sports teams and athletic population. This tape has a high tensile strength with minimal to no elastic properties. Often found in brown and white, rigid tape is used to restrict motion in a joint, in order to add stability for a temporary period of time.

When should i use dynamic sports tape?

Dynamic tape is a cloth based tape that is highly elastic which allows stretch and tension to be controlled upon application. Often coming in bright colours, this tape is claimed to have many different uses and benefits. The benefits include de-loading specific soft tissue structures or “correcting” biomechanics and joint positioning. Often referred to as K tape or Kinesio tape.

When should I use underwrap sports tape?

Softer more forgiving tape often with hypoallergenic properties. Allows for increased air flow and protects skin. Ensures removal of tape is less aggressive and great when frequent re-application of strapping is required. 

So, what is rigid sports tape used for?

Given the strong nature of this tape, when applied correctly it can limit excessive joint activity during physical activity.

Injury prevention:

We often see and use rigid sports tape to prevent or decrease the severity of injuries if they were to happen. For example, by laying down layers of rigid tape to your ankle, we mimic and take much of the force and pressure off your ankle ligaments, ‘thus if you were to “roll” your ankle you have a safety barrier to decrease the stress on said structures. This preventative use is employed by many professional sporting organisations who would much rather spend time and money on preventing injuries, potentially keeping their star players on the field then have them injured and miss a portion of the season rehabbing the injury.

Decrease further injury:

If there is pathological tissue damage, depending on the severity, taping is often used to prevent further injury occurring. For example, individuals who have previously dislocated their shoulder may adopt taping. This taping would limit shoulder motion to safe positions, low in risk of re injury.

Confidence / return to activity:

We can’t downplay the psychological effects of strapping. Studies have shown that taping can increase confidence, and give re-assurance to athletes. Some research even states that the placebo effect of taping can increase performance! Although this can be beneficial in the short term, there is always a goal to have the individual return to activity without the need, reliance or dependence on strapping.

Should YOU use sports taping?

Unfortunately, there is not always a definitive answer to this question and individual factors need to be accounted for. When rehabbing an injury, in an ideal world we would take time for the damaged tissue to heal. During this time, we would progressively load the injured body part sufficiently. This method would equate to your body being as strong if not stronger than your pre injury state. This would result in your body not needing any taping when returning to activity. With different pressures and expectations this is rarely the case. Your return to sport date, should be determined by the stage of your rehab and injury. Often regrettably, your return to sport date is however determined by a future competition match or time, regardless of where your injury sits in the journey that is injury rehabilitation.

For more questions on this topic or whether you would benefit from taping, contact your physiotherapist.