Ahhhh the Olympic Games..
The time of year where elite athletes get to become walking billboards to the masses for all kinds of products, including pseudo-science treatment modalities. Earlier this week, I gave my fairly strong opinion about “cupping”, and now I turn my attention to Kinesio-Tape (KT).
Look I get it that elite athletes are looking for "1'ers" over their competition to win gold, but can someone please explain what 1% the taping method in the above photo is adding to this athlete's performance??
I’m sure you are all well aware what KT is, but for those of you that aren’t aware, KT is a type of taping that is used by athletes with the assumption that it assists in muscle activity and sporting performance. More eloquently, the Kinesio-Tape website says that
“The Kinesio® Taping Method is based on a simple principle that the body has built-in healing mechanisms and healthcare practitioners can help to positively influence their efficiency by removing barriers that impede them. Kinesio® Tape provides extended soft tissue manipulation to prolong the benefits of manual therapy administered in the athletic training room or physical therapy clinic. The results are increased fluid flow through an injured area, better control over muscle contractions, reduced pain, and ultimately faster healing. This effect is modulated and coordinated by the nervous system by specifically stimulating the sensory motor system”
That’s pretty big claims…
KT is polarising amongst my physio peers. Some use it. Some think it's rubbish. I'm more towards the rubbish side, but I will admit that I have used it in the past with some athletes as I attempted to throw everything at the athlete (including the kitchen sink) to get them on the field.
Unfortunately there is little HIGH QUALITY evidence to support its use in a number of different populations and conditions. Although not exhaustive, below is brief summary of the better quality research out there...
Meta-analysis on KT and it's effect muscle strength: No benefit (1).
Systematic review on KT and it's effect on improving outcomes following injury: Overall inconclusive; however postive short term effect on pain in shoulder impingement, and short term effects on pain in whiplash (2).
Systematic review on KT in treatment and prevention of sports injuries: Not superior to other forms of tape to prevent injuries, and inconclusive evidence in improving strength, ROM and proprioception (3).
Short term reduction in pain, but not function, in PFJ pain (4).
- No improvement on jumping performance and balance in healthy elite athletes (5, 6).
- No improvement in quads strength and lower limb function in healthy adults (7).
- No improvement in reducing shoulder fatigue and joint position sense in healthy adults (8).
In conclusion, there is little evidence to support the use of KT to improve function or sports performances, but I'm sure we'll see plenty of it over the next week during the Olympics. Unlike some other questionable treatment modalities, KT poses little to no harm; Apart from the occasional rash, and the pain felt from pulling hairs out when you rip it off.
Take home message: You can't band-aid a faulty training plan.
Nothing will ever beat an excellent strength & conditioning program, load management, mental preparation, and excellent recovery practices that include nutrition, hydration and sleep.
To me, these are the 1%'ers our athletes and patients should be aiming for.
1. Csapo R, Alegre LM. Effects of Kinesio((R)) taping on skeletal muscle strength-A meta-analysis of current evidence. Journal of science and medicine in sport / Sports Medicine Australia. 2015 Jul;18(4):450-6. PubMed PMID: 25027771. Epub 2014/07/17. eng.
2. Mostafavifar M, Wertz J, Borchers J. A systematic review of the effectiveness of kinesio taping for musculoskeletal injury. The Physician and sportsmedicine. 2012 Nov;40(4):33-40. PubMed PMID: 23306413. Epub 2013/01/12. eng.
3. Williams S, Whatman C, Hume PA, Sheerin K. Kinesio taping in treatment and prevention of sports injuries: a meta-analysis of the evidence for its effectiveness. Sports medicine (Auckland, NZ). 2012 Feb 1;42(2):153-64. PubMed PMID: 22124445. Epub 2011/11/30. eng.
4. Freedman SR, Brody LT, Rosenthal M, Wise JC. Short-term effects of patellar kinesio taping on pain and hop function in patients with patellofemoral pain syndrome. Sports health. 2014 Jul;6(4):294-300. PubMed PMID: 24982700. Pubmed Central PMCID: PMC4065564. Epub 2014/07/02. eng.
5. Schiffer T, Mollinger A, Sperlich B, Memmert D. Kinesio taping and jump performance in elite female track and field athletes and jump performance in elite female track and field athletes. Journal of sport rehabilitation. 2015 Feb;24(1):47-50. PubMed PMID: 24959912. Epub 2014/06/25. eng.
6. Nunes GS, de Noronha M, Cunha HS, Ruschel C, Borges NG, Jr. Effect of kinesio taping on jumping and balance in athletes: a crossover randomized controlled trial. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Nov;27(11):3183-9. PubMed PMID: 23439339. Epub 2013/02/27. eng.
7. Fernandes de Jesus J, de Almeida Novello A, Bezerra Nakaoka G, Curcio Dos Reis A, Fukuda TY, Fernandes Bryk F. Kinesio taping effect on quadriceps strength and lower limb function of healthy individuals: A blinded, controlled, randomized, clinical trial. Physical therapy in sport : official journal of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Sports Medicine. 2016 Mar;18:27-31. PubMed PMID: 26708093. Epub 2015/12/29. eng.
8. Zanca GG, Mattiello SM, Karduna AR. Kinesio taping of the deltoid does not reduce fatigue induced deficits in shoulder joint position sense. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon). 2015 Nov;30(9):903-7. PubMed PMID: 26305054. Epub 2015/08/26. eng.