Have you noticed some of the players wearing unusual tape on their shoulders or knees? One of the editors of Tennis Magazine pointed it out to me in an interview recently. It is called kinesio tape, and it seems to be gaining popularity. It received a lot of attention during beach volleyball in the Summer Olympics a few years ago, but athletes in other sports are giving it a try. Renee Garrison, a physical therapist, shared her thoughts of kinesio taping with me.

There is some debate about the effectiveness of kinesio taping and how and when it should be used, but Garrison says the concept behind the taping makes sense. “Kinesio tape has a little stretch, and the therapist applying the tape can apply more or less as needed,” she explains. It is designed to ensure proper mechanics with sports movements by providing feedback to correct a joint’s position. Because of its elasticity, it helps to reposition a shoulder, for instance, and thus correct faulty mechanics that come with fatigue.

Kinesio tape

Garrison normally sees this method used by athletes after injuries, and it can help them play through pain. “By encouraging proper muscle contraction and facilitating the proprioception (a joint position sense) of a knee or shoulder, it might not hurt as much. Plus it does help stimulate the lymphatic system to help decrease swelling and rid the area of lactic acid more quickly,” she points out.

Since kinesio taping might improve mechanical problems, especially with fatigued muscles, in theory it could be used by all athletes and not just injured ones. But in athletes with shoulder, knee, or ankle pain, this treatment alone will usually not cure the problem. “I would use it as an adjunct for rehab, not by itself,” Garrison argues.

How applicable kinesio tape is to the weekend warrior or youth athlete is also debatable. This tape has to be applied in certain ways, and the technique has to be learned. Garrison observes, “It can be hard to apply yourself. You want someone with a medical background and an understanding of muscle origins and insertions to be able to apply it correctly.”

It will be interesting to see in the coming years if kinesio tape becomes more popular among elite athletes. Professional tennis players often play with nagging joint pains, so they might be good candidates to try it.

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