To Strap or Not to Strap?

What, when and why you should be strapped

By Nadine George – Physiotherapist & Cameron Hyde – Exercise Physiologist, Sydney West Sports Medicine

 

Sports strapping (or taping) is extremely common in the sporting world and the everyday clinic. Very rarely will you attend a sports match and not see someone running around with one part or another strapped up. In fact, most competitive sports teams allocate time before each training session and game purely to allow their athletes to be strapped!

As with any form of treatment, there is a huge variety of tapes on the market and subsequently, an endless variety of uses and techniques. This can become quite confusing when you attend treatment and are recommended to use tape or to be strapped before you play on the weekend.

So how do you know which tape is best for you? And how do you know when you should be strapped?

When I recommend that someone be strapped, I am often asked a number of questions about which tape is best, how it should be applied, how to know if you are using the right tape, when to take it off etc. The reality is, everyone is different. The types of applications of tape will very much depend on a number of factors. Some things to consider:

WHY AM I BEING STRAPPED?

The most common reasons we use tape are:

  • To restrict range of motion (following an injury, certain movements may need to be limited or completely restricted to protect the injured sit as activity levels increase);
  • To aid swelling management (used to provide compression in acute injury to minimise swelling);
  • To provide feedback to the athlete (tape can be placed in certain ways along muscles/joints not to limit motion, but to provide extra feedback to the athlete about how their body is moving;
  • To offload certain structures (tape can provide extra support to certain muscles and joints to reduce the amount of strain)
  • To prevent further injury and/or allow return to sport (by restricting range, controlling swelling, providing feedback or offloading structures, taping can assist in preventing injury and allowing a faster return to sport).

WHICH TAPE IS BEST USED FOR THAT PURPOSE?

Once you know why you are being strapped, then it should be relatively simple to figure out which tape is best. Below is a table summarising the 3 most common tapes on the market and their uses:

Tape Rigid Sports Tape K-Tape Dynamic Tape
Description
  • Brown sports tape
  • Most common tape used
  • Comes in a variety of bright colours
  • Gained popularity in recent years due to use by professional athletes
  • Comes in one pattern only
  • Newest tape on the market
Properties
  • Completely rigid
  • No capacity to stretch
  • Ultra-lightweight
  • Elastic
  • Lightweight
  • Elastic
  • 4 way stretch
Uses
  • Restrict range of motion
  • Aid swelling management
  • Provide feedback
  • Offload structures
  • Prevent further injury
  • Provide proprioceptive feedback
  • Aid swelling management
  • Provide proprioceptive feedback
  • Provide elastic energy to aid muscle function
Example  

Ankle strapping following a sprained ankle, to limit the “rolling” motion of the ankle and aid in joint stability, thereby preventing re-injury

 

 

K-tape to assist in swelling management after a calf tear

 

Dynamic Tape to provide elastic support to assist in the function of the finger extensor muscles

 

IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE TO CONSIDER?

There are a number of other factors to consider when using strapping tape.

  1. What sport do you play? And what position?
    Different sports and playing positions require different joint range of motion, so your tape should allow you enough movement to do what you need to do, while still fulfilling it purpose.
  2. Do you have any allergies?
    Some people develop skin reactions to the tape itself or the glue used. Care should be taken when using a new tape for the first time and the time worn should be minimised.
  3. What has worked for you in the past?
    If you have previously had a certain type of taping that has worked really well, there is a good chance it will work again!

Sports strapping can be an extremely effective aid to rehabilitation, but it can also cause problems if used inappropriately. At the end of the day, all this should be considered and discussed with your physiotherapist or strapper to ensure that you are getting the most out of your strapping, and allow you to perform at your peak.

Physiotherpapists from Sydney West Sports Medicine are available 6 days a week, including Saturdays from 7am – 1pm. So, if you need advice on how or when to strap, or you need to be strapped before a game on the weekend give SWSM a call on (02) 9851 5959.

 

Posted: 4 October 2017