During the Olympic Games, several athletes were seen sporting Kinesio tape, a soft and stretchy neon-colored cotton tape. The tape was designed by Kenzo Kase, a Japanese acupuncturist and chiropractor, and is supposed to support injured muscles and increase range of motion. But does it actually work?
The answer is maybe. Associate professor of sports medicine at the University of Utah School of Medicine Amy Powell says, while the tape can be useful, it isn’t a miracle worker. She said:
“This is one of those Band-Aid kind of things; it will allow [athletes] to do their physical therapy to get back to their athletic activities more quickly. I think the company advertises it as more of a cure, but I see it as more of an aid. If things like Kinesio tape can aid rehab, then that’s great, that’s one of our goals.”
Mary Ann Willmarth, a doctor of physical therapy at Harvard University Health Services says she has seen people getting a benefit from it but that evidence-based studies are needed to prove that it is the tape helping athletes and not something else.
A February 2012 review of Kinesio research concluded that “there was little quality evidence to support the use of [Kinesio tape] over other types of elastic taping in the management or prevention of sports injuries.”
The way the tape works is also disputed. Jim Wallis, an athletic trainer at Portland State University, says the tape lifts the skin and separates it from other layers of tissue and that the extra space allows blood to flow better.
Results have only been studied in small cases, many lacking control groups. The tape is often used in combination with other treatments, making it hard to determine if it or another factor causes the results.
Athletes such as Lance Armstrong and members of the Green Bay Packers swear by the tape, but, so far, much of the evidence supporting its effectiveness is anecdotal. International director of Kinesio Holding Corporation Michael Good says sales of Kinesio are up 300 percent since 2008; the tape got a huge boost during the Beijing Olympics when the company donated rolls to athletes’ physical therapists.