Does coloured Kenesio tape worn by athletes really work?

Many of us, who watched the Olympics or have recently watched a football match, will have seen athletes and footballers, sporting strange brightly coloured tape on various parts of their body. Many will have also wondered what on earth they are and what they are wearing them for.

The brightly coloured tape is called Kinesio tape and far from being a new miracle treatment, it’s more than 30 years old and the invention of the Japanese chiropractor Dr Kenzo Kase. He claims: “the tape opens up the space between two layers of the skin, the outer one, the epidermis and the deeper one, the dermis, to allow blood to flow more easily to the injured area.”

However many people are skeptical and wonder how a thin, narrow strip of what amounts to sticky tape, can heal an injured muscle or protect a sore one, or why volleyball players wore fluorescent pink and blue tape over their buttocks and stomach muscles. Even more bizarrely, how crisscross strapping which covers almost the whole shoulder, could protect the body after rotator cuff surgery.

Despite all this however famous sports stars such as cyclist Lance Armstrong has sworn by it for years, footballers like David Beckham and Mario Balotelli use it regularly and tennis champ Serena Williams relies on it.

Dr Kase started with Sumo wrestlers who because of their size and weight, frequently sustain injuries to knees, ankles, shoulders, spine and hamstrings. Perhaps because the Japanese are more open and susceptible to alternative medicines, the tape took off.

However is there any science to back up the claims? Well it would seem very little, a study of people with shoulder problems suggested Kinesio tape can relieve pain. But pain is subjective and must be measured rigorously to hope to gain any accurate results.

So do the bright garish colours maybe have something to do with how Kenesio tape is supposed to work? Well maybe, there’s very good research that, for instance, red painkillers are more effective than white ones, even though they contain the same amount of the drug. Women seem to like the pink and blue, whereas men like red and black.

So it seems that in the lack of any hard scientific evidence to support Kenesio tape, that the main advantage it can offer is a psychological or placebo effect, which if it helps an athlete or footballer be in the right frame of mind to compete then it can’t be too bad a thing.

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