Sports strapping (or taping) is extremely common in the sporting world and the everyday clinic. Very rarely will you attend a sports match and not see someone running around with one part or another strapped up. In fact, most competitive sports teams allocate time before each training session and game purely to allow their athletes to be strapped!
As with any form of treatment, there is a huge variety of tapes on the market, and subsequently, an endless variety of uses and techniques. This can become quite confusing when you attend treatment and are recommended to use tape, or to be strapped before you play on the weekend.
So how do you know which tape is best for you? And how do you know when you should be strapped?
When I recommend that someone be strapped, I am often asked a number of questions about which tape is best, how it should be applied, how to know if you’re using the right tape, when to take it off etc etc. The reality is, everyone is different. The types and applications of tape will very much depend on a number of factors. Some things to consider are;
1. Why am I being strapped?
The most common reasons we use tape are:
- To restrict range of motion
Following injury, certain movements may need to be limited or completely restricted to protect the injured site as activity levels increase
- To aid swelling management
Used to provide compression in acute injury to minimise swelling
- To provide feedback to the athlete
Tape can be placed in certain ways along muscles/joints not to limit motion, but provide extra feedback to athlete about how their body is moving
- To offload certain structures
Tape can provide extra support to certain muscles and joints to reduce the amount of strain
- To prevent further injury and/or allow return to sport
By restricting range, controlling swelling, providing feedback or offloading structures, taping can assist in preventing injury and allowing a faster return to sport.
2. Which Tape is best used for that purpose?
Once you know why you are being strapped, then it should be relatively simple to figure out which tape is best. Below is a table summarising the 3 most common tapes on the market, and their uses
|Tape||Rigid Sports Tape||K-Tape||Dynamic Tape|
|Examples||Ankle strapping following a sprained ankle, to limit the “rolling” motion of the ankle and aid in joint stability, thereby preventing re-injury||K-tape to assist in swelling management after a calf tear (Figure 1)||Dynamic Tape to provide elastic support to assist in the function of the finger extensor muscles (Figure 2)|
3. Is there anything else to consider?
There are a number of other factors to consider when using strapping tape:
- What sport do you play? And what position?
Different sports and playing positions require different joint range of motion, so your tape should allow you enough movement to do what you need to do, while still fulfilling its purpose
- Do you have any allergies?
Some people develop skin reactions to the tape itself or the glue used. Care should be taken when using a new tape for the first time and the time worn should be minimised.
- What has worked for you in the past?
If you have previously had a certain type of taping that has worked really well, there’s a good chance it will work again!
Sports strapping can be an extremely effective aid to rehabilitation, but it can also cause problems if used inappropriately. At the end of the day, all this should be considered and discussed with your physiotherapist or strapper to ensure that you are getting the most out of your strapping, and allow you to perform at your peak.
Physiotherapists at Sydney West Sports Medicine are available 6 days a week, including Saturdays from 7am-1pm. So, if you need advice on how or when to strap, or you need to be strapped before the game on the weekend, give us a call on (02) 9851 5959 to find out more.