Why are athletes wearing coloured tape?

 
Italian striker Mario Balotelli Mario Balotelli revealed his stripes (and got a yellow card) when he took off his shirt during Euro 2012

Related Stories

Why are athletes wearing coloured tape?

In the Euro 2012 Championship, Italian striker Mario Balotelli was sporting three tramlines of blue sticky tape on his back.

And at Wimbledon, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic has had his elbow patched up with the same stuff.

So what's behind this latest sporting fad?

The Japanese makers of Kinesio tape say it gives players an edge by mending injuries.

Sticking plaster?

Although it might seem like a new idea, the tape has been around since the 1970s.

Dr Kenzo Kase says he came up with the design because he found standard taping techniques, like conventional strapping, too restrictive for his patients.

Start Quote

I can't see it would cause any real problem, other than making you lose a few hairs!”

End Quote Prof John Brewer University of Bedfordshire

Although standard strapping provides muscle and joint support, it limits movement and, according to Dr Kase, gets in the way of the healing process by restricting the flow of inflammatory fluids below the skin.

Kinesio tape is different, he says, because it lifts the skin to assist this lymphatic flow, which, in turn, reduces pain and swelling.

However, Dr Kase admits there have been too few studies to prove these scientific claims.

Psychological crutch?

Dr Kase says people have been using his tape with success for more than 30 years. But he recognises that only solid scientific evidence can silence critics.

"We have many people researching but the society of Kinesio taping therapy itself - the International Kinesio Taping Association - is only five years old. We need more evidence. We do not have research reports. Part of the reason people are using Kinesio tape is to find the science."

Novak Djokovic Novak Djokovic has been wearing the tape during his Wimbledon matches

Another element to consider is the power of persuasion or "placebo effect" - if you believe something will work then you will see results.

John Brewer, a sports professor at the University of Bedfordshire, said: "Personally, I think it is more of a placebo effect. There is no firm scientific data to show that it has an impact on performance or prevents injuries.

"My concern is that there is little that you can put on the skin that will have a real benefit for the muscles that lie deep beneath.

"The power and stress going through the joints is immense.

"But, saying that, I can't see it would cause any real problem, other than making you lose a few hairs."

In theory, anything that can lessen the oscillations or vibrations that go through the muscle when you are doing intense sport will be beneficial, he said.

Start Quote

We'll probably see athletes in the Olympics sporting a few union jacks made out of it”

End Quote Phil Newton Physiotherapist

Phil Newton, a physiotherapist at Lilleshall, one of the UK's National Sports Centres, said: "It's a multimillion-pound business, yet there's no evidence for it. There's a whole host of companies making this tape now.

"A lot of medical practitioners do use it.

"It is different to the various types of tape that physios have been using for donkey's years to strap sprained ankles and so on.

"This is a relatively new type of tape that is thin and light weight. The idea behind it is fascial unloading - reducing pressure in the tissue below the skin."

Dr Newton remains dubious. "Looking at the tensile strength of the tape I don't see how it could do it unless it is down to stimulating the senses. The power of placebo is very strong and shouldn't be underestimated."

He predicts the Olympics will be awash with the stuff. "It'll be a show of multicoloured tape.

"We'll probably see athletes in the Olympics sporting a few union jacks made out of it," he said.

Dr Kase certainly hopes so.

He said: "Olympians are very top athletes. Top athletes are very different from regular athletes. They are hypersensitive and they worry. My tape will give lots of comfort to them. This is not drugs."

 

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 351.

    The only difference now from the 70's is that people are A LOT more gullible. This is the same as the power balance wrist bands.

    They have been proven not to make ANY impact but if the user feels that they do due to placebo then so be it and have fun. However, Im just not stupid enough to go to the parmacy and ask for talcum powder pills to aid recovery therefore wont be trying this either!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 350.

    @338 you're a fool. Do you think somebody would have gone to the trouble of commenting on the misuse of the world 'brainchild' if it did not appear in the article? I don't know when it disappeared but it's been in there for most of the day. You should be addressing your criticism at the IT guys for not showing the correct update time on the page.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 349.

    I know this is very closed minded of me, but whenever I see these sports players, professional or otherwise, taping their limbs up because they are trying to "protect an old/current injury", I am always mindful that the tape doesn't magic the injury away. No matter how much you tape it up the injury is still there and playing on it is risking further injury. Allow your body to heal itself first.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 348.

    Whatever!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 347.

    Duct tape for your muscles, WD40 for your joints! What else does your hardware shop have when the chemists can't help?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 346.

    Nothing heals the human body better than time, however when athletes are healing they are not working and sponsors do not like not earning money.

    Just as we need a varied diet we also need a varied lifestyle, for both the body and mind. This includes time to heal. This seems to be another quick fix stickytape solution. no pun intended

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 345.

    Adidas had adverts thanking Poland and Ukraine for the football, they did however neglect to thank their South East Asian employees.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 344.

    Wondered why JT wears his socks above his knees, cold i thought, the knees that is.
    I was wrong, he is obviously trying to get an edge.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 343.

    The comments on this page actually scare me.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 342.

    I used this Sunday on a 50 mile charity cycle ride . I've had some knee pain for the last few months after "over doing it "... Worked like a charm !! .. Spoken to a few other friends since who cycle and swear by it !

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 341.

    Since there is probably no reason for Balotelli's sticky tape gaffe, perhaps he could have made the three strips more meaningful in the colours of Italiy's flag. Then, perhaps, he wanted no reason whatsoever.
    Lack of reason is probably the reason here.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 340.

    TK; You sound rather sceptical yourself. What other "over the cooounter aid's" do you use to help you get through a game ? As an ex semi-pro footballer I never had to use anything but my own hard work and skills

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 339.

    "289. ashley
    so in other words it enhances the players preformance.. unfair advantage simple as that"

    Yep, let's ban boots whilst we're at it. Footie's supposed to be a man's game.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 338.

    "49. barmecidal
    11 HOURS AGO
    Perhaps the most interesting thing about this item is that it exposes a BBC News Editor's poor English. A "brainchild" is the invention, not the inventor."

    You do realise the word 'brainchild' is not mentioned once in the entire article? You posted your comment at approximately 7am, the article was last updated 4 hours prior to that. How you got 30 +'s is beyond me.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 337.

    I've got some beans for sale if anyone's interested.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 336.

    Meh, it was almost a century before we did any real testing on paracetamol, it was only in the 70's that we decided to start looking into it. Hell, we still don't even understand how the stuff works... It just does. Could be the same for this tape thing.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 335.

    The first link, http://www.kinesiotaping.co.uk/ [Broken URL edited by Moderator] in the above article is to Kinesio UK site on which is an advert by Boots Chemist which then links back to this page. I didn't know the BBC was into product placement!

    P.S. Wikipedia says there's no evidence for its claims. It also says it was invented by Joseph C. Komp, contrary to what Kinesio's site claims. It's all rather fishy.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 334.

    I put some tape on my SUV and it reduced carbon emmissions, and the temperature around my home continues to drop. By Gad, I think we have cracked it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 333.

    I noticed this tape on Gareth Bales thighs when he was lying on the ground writhing in agony (yet again). I thought it was a decency thing.

    I also noticed when I played that applying a leg bandage in a certain way allowed me to play on as long as the injury was muscular and was very useful around the calf of thigh muscles. Stll ached the next day though.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 332.

    I've used a number of so called pseudo sciences principally TCM, acupuncture, herbal concoctions, nutritional supplements. The net result has been the 'curing' of my hypertension and the athletic ability of a 25 year old (I am 50) Gee was I a mug, I should be on a lifetime of proven medications battling side effects such as muscle cramps from those wonderful statins that impair CoQ10 synthesis.

 

Page 2 of 19

 

More Health stories

RSS

Features

Copyright © 2015 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.