Celebrity fad or medical marvel
First we saw Mario Balotelli exhibiting his go-faster stripes as he whipped off his shirt in Euro 2012. Then it was world number one seed Novak Djokovic sporting an elbow patch at Wimbledon. So what is the purpose of this new fangled blue tape?
Kinesio tape as it is known was the brainchild of Japanese scientist Dr Kenzo Kase, and has actually been around since the 1970s. The makers claim that the strips of blue tape give athletes the edge by mending and preventing injuries.
Conventional strapping techniques are derived from rehabilitation strapping, often tending to isolate a joint or muscle and prevent or reduce movement. This can be very restrictive in a sporting environment and actually hinder performance.
The benefit of extra movement is clear in a performance sense, however there is very little medical evidence proving the effectiveness of Kinesio tapes healing power, likewise however, Professor John Brewer from the University of Bedfordshire “can’t see it would cause any real problem, other than making you loose a few hairs”.
The manufacturers of the tape claim that it assist with the lymphatic flow under the skin, reducing swelling and in turn pain. This allows greater mobility and faster healing time.
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There has been some argument that the tape may serve a purpose as a placebo, reassuring players that they are on the mend, or that they are less susceptible to injury. There has been considerable research into the power of the mind, and it is plausible that Kinesio tape is catching on because of its psychological benefits.
John Brewer continued by saying: "Personally, I think it is more of a placebo effect. There is no firm scientific data to show that it has an impact on performance or prevents injuries. My concern is that there is little that you can put on the skin that will have a real benefit for the muscles that lie deep beneath. The power and stress going through the joints is immense.
Whether the magic blue tape holds any real medical benefits remains to be seen, however placebo or not, I am sure that we will be seeing a lot more of this latest sporting craze as London 2012 comes rolling round the corner. And who could blame an athlete at the top of their career utilising every benefit, perceived or not, to go for gold.