Athletic taping is a widely used technique in sports and rehabilitation. You must have noticed athletes on TV with white athletic tape on their shoulder or funky-colored tape wrapped around their knee. However, have you ever wondered what the difference is and what taping actually does? This blog aims to answer those questions.
Athletic Tape (Rigid Tape): Athletic tape is a firm and non-elastic tape that offers support and stabilization for joints and muscles. It is frequently used to immobilize injuries, secure bandages, and create a steady framework to prevent excessive movement. While it provides robust support, it limits range of motion, making it suitable for acute injuries or injuries that require stabilization. For this reason, it is common to see this tape used in contact sports such as rugby, basketball, and football, or for conditions that result in lasting instability, such as ankle sprains and AC joint separations.
What are the benefits of using athletic tape?
Provides Stability and Support: It is often used to immobilize joints, providing a reliable barrier against excessive movement during intense physical activities.
Versatility: This style of tape is not only used to support joints but also to secure bandage and dress acute injuries.
Cost: this tape is relatively inexpensive and you can easily buy it in bulk.
So what are the cons?
Restricts Range of Motion: When it comes to using support tape, there is a trade-off between gaining support and losing range of motion. It's important to keep in mind that this tape may not be suitable for all injuries since you need flexibility around muscles and contractile tissues. For instance, it wouldn't be ideal to use this tape for Achilles tendonitis where the ankle and calf muscle needs to move naturally.
Not Sweat Resistant: sweat and water is this tape’s nemesis. Athletic tape is not very effective in humid or hot environments because sweat and water can cause it to lose its effectiveness within an hour or two. Although there are adhesive sprays that can increase its lifespan, once the tape loses contact with the skin, it essentially becomes useless. Additionally, it is not a good choice for water sports such as swimming, water polo, or diving.
Skin Irritation: some people are allergic to the tape’s adhesive and can break out or have a skin reaction.
Kinesiology Tape (K-Tape / Stretchy Tape): Kinesiology tape is a type of elastic and flexible tape which is designed to emulate the flexibility and elasticity of human tissue. It is popular for its ability to provide support without limiting the movement or range of motion of joints. Some people believe that using kinesiology tape can improve blood circulation, reduce muscle fatigue, and provide proprioceptive support to an injury. Its elastic nature allows for a more natural range of motion, making it suitable for a variety of applications, ranging from injury prevention to performance optimization.
What are the benefits of using Kinesiology Tape?
Flexibility: Kinesiology tape is designed to mimic the flexibility of human tissue, allowing for a broader range of motion. This can be beneficial for athletes that need some support without sacrificing their natural movements.
Proprioception: Kinesiology tape serves as a helpful reminder to not overexert or move your body in a way that causes pain. It does not restrict the movement of your joints but helps you remember not to use them in a way that could cause discomfort. This concept is referred to as proprioception, which is the ability to understand where your body is in relation to space. Kinesiology tape can be used to facilitate learning and improve proprioception instead of just immobilizing a structure.
It is believed by some individuals that kinesiology tape's stretchy quality can enhance blood and lymphatic circulation. This, in turn, can help to decrease swelling and speed up the healing process for certain injuries. Although there is still debate among scientific researchers about this topic, some patients have reported experiencing benefits.
Sweat and Water resistance: The adhesive and material of kinesiology tape allow it to last in humid and wet environments, making it suitable for water sports or activities that promote sweating.
Longer Lasting: kinesiology tape, if applied correctly can usually last for 2-3 days.
What are the cons of Kinesiology Tape?
Less Stability for Acute Injuries:
While kinesiology tape excels in providing dynamic support, it does not offer the same level of stability as athletic tape for acute injuries that require rigid immobilization. Therefore, it should not be used for acute ankle sprain, separated shoulders, or other acute ligament injuries.
Cost: kinesiology tape is more expensive than athletic tape and can be difficult to purchase in bulk.
Skin Irritation: Some patients may develop rashes or skin sensitivity due to the adhesives used in k-tape. Incorrect application can pull the tape, causing skin abrasions.
If you take away one thing from this blog, let it be this: Athletic tape is primarily used to immobilize joints and limit range of motion. It is most suitable for acute injuries or injuries that require stability. The major drawback of athletic tape is that it loses its effectiveness when an athlete sweats or when the tape becomes wet.
On the other hand, Kinesiology Tape, also known as K-tape, is best used for injuries that require minimal support but would benefit from proprioception or active rehabilitation. It is resistant to sweat and water, and if applied correctly, it can last up to 2-3 days.