Taping in Sports Medicine
Jessica M. Poole
RM Barney Poole
Taping in sports medicine has been a long-standing rehabilitative adjunct to assist sports medicine providers in preventing injury and facilitating a safe return to play (18).
The most basic way to restrict motion is by applying simple athletic taping methods to the affected area. Tape can aid in the support and compression of a soft tissue injury and can additionally unload the amount of force placed on damaged ligaments during the healing process. Taping a joint to reduce the risk of injury or increase patient confidence in the integrity of a joint may be the most common reason for athletic taping (3,13).
Restricting motion of certain joints has been demonstrated to effectively protect, prevent, and limit further injury (16).
This chapter reviews the role of athletic taping in sports medicine, specifically addressing indications, current methods, recommended materials, principles of application, site-specific techniques and the current evidence for efficacy.
There are two principal indications for taping: prevention and rehabilitation.
Prevention: Taping normal or injured tissue for practice and games to help keep a recreational or occupational athlete safe from injury or to protect from potential or further injury with early return to activity.
Rehabilitation: Tape may be applied to speed the process of return to activity and protect the area during early return; tape may also be applied to modify the activity of a joint to allow for joint retraining during rehabilitation.
As the manufacture of tape becomes more sophisticated, its uses become ever more varied. There are many forms of taping presently used in sports medicine, but the principal techniques involve: classic nonstretch athletic taping, McConnell taping and Kinesio taping.
Classic athletic taping
Classic nonstretch linen high-thread count athletic tape has been used for years to support and protect athletes’ joints for practice and games.
Traditional nonstretch athletic tapes are generally applied to form an inflexible bandage with the goal of supporting, and usually immobilizing, a joint or muscle.
McConnell taping was originally developed by Jenny McConnell, PT, to be used in the treatment of patellofemoral pain syndrome (15).
This method uses a good exam of the affected joint and a high-thread count nonstretch tape to potentially correct tracking and alignment issues in the patella, support the patella, and retrain muscles to correct the issue. The tape required consists of elastic underwrap and the nonstretch adhesive tape. Leukotape is a brand often used for McConnell taping.
Kinesio taping is a relatively new technique that has recently come into wide use throughout the world to facilitate healing and provide stability and support without restricting motion. Kinesio tape may be used for days at a time (5).
Kinesio tape has the properties of being both strong and flexible. Kinesio taping additionally uses a proprietary taping method complete with certification classes and seminars for practitioners. The tape is applied in a specific pattern and is either stretched or not stretched, depending on the injury and rehabilitative goals. Kinesio tape is thought to work by not only supporting injured muscles and joints, but also helping to relieve pain by lifting the skin and allowing blood to flow more freely to the injured area (20,21).
Prior to applying tape to a joint for protection, prevention, or prophylactic means, there are several concepts that need to be addressed. First, proper materials are needed. There is a wide variety of taping materials on the market for the provider to choose from.
The principal types of tape matter the most; there is no evidence to suggest one brand is superior to another. Be sure to find the best type of tape that accommodates budgets while providing the best result for the patient. A good supply of the following types and sizes of tape is recommended:
1-, 1.5-, and 2-inch linen athletic tape
1.5-, 2-, and 3-inch light elastic Lightplast
2- and 3-inch heavy elastic tape such as Elastikon
Adhesive covering such as Cover Roll
Leukotape for McConnell taping
Kinesio tape: rolls or prefabricated for a particular joint; both are available
Other supplies necessary for the application of tape are tape adherent (such as Tuff Skin or QDA), heel and lace pads to prevent friction in areas of concern, skin lube for application of friction pads, prewrap foam to prevent skin irritation, bandage scissors or any blunt nose scissors, and tape cutters (2).
PRINCIPLES OF APPLICATION
When applying tape to a joint, there are several basic rules that need to be followed in order to ensure comfort, correct joint mechanics and function, and limit further injury to the joint or cutaneous tissue. The following rules apply:
Rule out any factors that could pose harm (e.g., an injury in close proximity, open wounds such as cuts or blisters).
Shave the area if applying tape directly to the skin.
Always place joint in position to be stabilized.
Apply tape adhesive to area for maximum adhesion.
Cover area to be taped with a prewrap or a pretape product.
Always begin with anchor strips and end with close strips.
Keep tape roll in same hand at all times.
Always overlap tape by half the width to prevent gaps that may cause friction blisters and/or cuts.
Clean the area to be taped.
Shave if tape is to be applied directly to the skin.
Use a tape-adherent spray to maximize adhesion.
Cover broken skin, cuts, skin moles tags, etc., prior to taping (2).
Use lubricated pads over bony prominence for comfort.
Apply pretape or prewrap to the skin to protect it; a single layer is usually all that is needed.
Avoid wrinkles in the tape to prevent blisters beneath the tape.
Tape is removed using scissors or tape cutters.
A liquid tape adhesive remover may be used to remove tape residue.
The most common areas of the body to tape are as follows: toes, ankle, arch, Achilles tendon, patella, acromioclavicular joint, elbow, wrist, and fingers. The knee and hip benefit most from bracing, which will be discussed in a subsequent chapter. A complete review of taping is beyond the scope of this text, and the interested reader is referred to the following excellent resources at end of chapter (2,15,16
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