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KT Kinesio Tape, the Evidence for and uses of the Coloured Elastic Athletic Tape as seen at London 2012

by Jane Hodgson 15 August 2012


Many people, watching the London Olympics have wondered about the profusion of coloured tape seen adorning athletes' bodies. It's known as KT, Kinesio or Kinesiology tape and is used to support injured muscles and relieve pain.

Elastic athletic tape, also known as KT tape, kinesiology tape or Kinesio tape was developed in Japan in the 1970’s, athletes in the USA were seen using it from the 1990's. Kinesio has recently found popularity amongst many international athletes being seen in a wide number of colours across a broad range of sports at the recent London 2012 Olympics.
Whilst traditional tape is non stretch and is used primarily to support injured joints, Kinesio tape is highly elastic and manufactures claim that it supports injured muscles and joints and relieves pain by lifting the skin to allow increased blood and lymph flow and therefore healing. ( Sports medicine 2012)

What Difference do the Colours of the Kinesio Tape Make?

Athletes at London 2012 were seen sporting KT tape in a wide range of colours including the British special of a row of Union Jacks. The colours are purely cosmetic, there is no clinical difference between them.

What’s the Evidence to Support the use of Kinesio Tape?

Anecdotal evidence from many therapists and athletes is that kinesio tape is effective as an aid to treating overuse injuries and improving performance by decreasing pain from injury during competition, however there is a paucity of evidence in the scientific literature to support the product.
In February 2012 the journal Sports Medicine published an article which reviewed the research about kinesio tape published in the medical literature over recent years, the authors conclude that there is little evidence that KT tape helps with pain relief, that there is inconsistent evidence that it may improve the amount of movement at a joint and mixed results as to whether the tape can help a muscle to contact with more strength or to add proprioceptive feedback (the mechanism by which the brain knows what position the joints are in).
Although there is not enough good quality experimental research published to support the use of the tape there are a number of papers which write up case studies that report good benefits.

What Injuries can Kinesio Tape be used on?

Therspists tend to use kinesio tape on overuse injuries and it may have a place in problems such as runners knee, iliotibial band syndrome, Achilles tendonopathy, rotator cuff injuries, plantar fasciitis and tennis elbow
After application the tape will remain in place for around 3 – 5 days.

Kinesio tape can be purchased from Physio Supplies PhysioRoom and other suppliers.

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About the author

Jane Hodgson - Chartered Physiotherapist Jane Hodgson Jane specialises in lower body injuries and has raced competitively in running, orienteering and adventure racing.

Did you know

KT/ Kinesio tape comes in a range of different colours. The colours are cosmetic only and have no theraputic difference.

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