I first noticed it on one of the Chinese synchronized divers, a couple of strips of bright blue align=”left” tape in two lines down her back. Did she have an injury? Was the tape a sort of rebellious fashion statement or a good luck charm? Was it some sort of pre-olympic ritual? I was curious but let it go.
Then, the tape started popping up on other athletes. The German volley ball player with all sorts of thin weird stripes down her abdomen, and then, an American, Kerri Walsh Jennings, the beach volley ball star, had some on her shoulder. That was it, I needed to know what this mysterious tape was and why so many athletes were sporting it.
With a little bit of research, I got my answers. The funky tape seen on many of the olympic athletes is called kinesio tape, and it is supposed to reduce pain and improve performance.
How can a couple of pieces of tape turn a sore and tired athlete into a medal winner? The theory behind it is that the tape supposedly increases blood flow, which has the effect of reducing pain. It also is said to encourage drainage of lymph fluid to reduce swelling. Finally, if the tape is placed correctly, it is supposed to make the muscles work correctly and in conjunction with one another for optimal performance.
How does it do all of this? The tape is made out of cotton with a special adhesive that is supposed to feel and move the way skin does. There are no drugs or other magic ingredients.
I wonder if the tape does one more thing–act to fulfill the placebo effect. In other words, if the athletes think that the tape is working, then it might actually help, even if there is n medical evidence behind it (which there isn’t).
Kinseo tape is widely available to non-olympians as well. In fact, many other athletes swear by it. If you do decide to try kinseo tape for yourself (which come under different brand names), keep in mind that even if it works, it will not make injuries go away, so use it in conjunction with traditional therapies, such as ice, rest, physical therapy and pain relievers.