Athletic tape falls into two primary categories – elastic and non elastic. Broadly speaking, it plays a similar role in supporting joints and soft tissues (ligaments, etc) as do orthopedic braces. However, again speaking generally, it is a lower profile solution than an orthopedic brace and is therefore easier to wear on the sports field. It does not interfere with joint range of motion to the same extent as would an orthopedic brace and also fits more easily under clothing, athletic or otherwise. This said, athletic tape requires some skill for its proper application, something that is not true of an orthopedic brace.
Non elastic adhesive athletic tapes usually come in cotton and/or polyester and have a zinc oxide adhesive mass backing. Due to their lack of elastic properties, they are less suited than elastic tapes for application to highly contoured parts of the body such as elbows and shoulders. The most common colour is white and the tape is usually available in widths of 0.5 , 1, 1.5 , 2 and 3 inches and in lengths of 10 to 15 yards.
Elastic adhesive athletic tapes (known as stretch tapes) come in 1,2,3 and 4 inch widths by 5 yard lengths. They are usually manufactured from twisted cotton with an adhesive backing. These tapes have the advantage of being able to conform to highly contoured areas of the body albeit providing somewhat less support than their non elastic counterparts.
The number of longitudinal and vertical fibres per inch in the backing of an athletic tape is an important factor in the assessment of its overall quality. Speaking generally, a high quality tape will have 85 or more longitudinal fibres and 65 or more vertical fibres per inch.
A high quality athletic tape will also possess a stronger adhesive backing with greater longevity. It will also display an even and fluid tension during removal from the roll.
Athletic tape can provide important support to several areas of the body in order to counter different injuries:
Arch taping can be used to provide support to the arch and forefoot areas. The foot & toes injuries that are treatable using adhesive tape include sprains, strains and overuse injuries.
The various taping techniques for the feet & toes include:
Ankle taping can play a critical role in the treatment of several injuries to that part of the body, including ankle sprains and strains. It is also useful in the temporary immobilization of certain parts of the ankle immediately after a fracture or severe sprain.
Athletic tape can be useful in reducing the scope for ankle inversion and eversion at the subtalar joint. It can also be useful in reducing plantar flexion and dorsiflexion at the talocrural joint. By protecting against excessive joint range of motion, taping can help to reduce the risk of injury during competition or training. Athletes who have previously suffered ankle injuries can use taping to provide support to the ankle structures and promote more rapid and complete healing of injuries.
The ankle taping techniques that are in common use include:
A popular application of athletic tape in the ankle area is the use of “spatting”. This technique is widespread in football and involves applying adhesive tape over athletic shoes. However, the support from spatting is generally not adequate for satisfactory prevention of ankle inversion, eversion or other sprains.
The lower leg injuries that are treatable by means of athletic tape include strains, ruptures and overuse injuries. Taping techniques that are normally used for this part of the body include:
This is perhaps the area with the largest number of applications for athletic tape. Tape is applicable for the treatment of a wide variety of knee injuries including, but not necessarily limited to, knee sprains, meniscal tears, anterior knee pain, nerve contusion, knee bursitis and overuse injuries.
The various knee taping techniques in common use are:
As with many of the other body areas, athletic tape can be instrumental in the treatment of thigh, hip and pelvic strains and overuse injuries. The various taping applications for this part of the body are:
Athletic tape also has many applications to the shoulder/upper arm area. The injuries in this part of the body that are treatable by taping include sprains, strains and overuse injuries. Taping techniques specific to this area include:
Applications of athletic tape to the elbow and forearm can be done using the following techniques and for the following purposes:
Wrist injuries that are treatable by the application of athletic tape include contusions, sprains, fractures, dislocations and overuse injuries such as de Quervain’s syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome. The taping techniques specific to the wrist include:
Athletic tape has many uses all over the body for treatment of soft tissue repetitive stress or trauma injuries. It is also useful for supporting protective padding to help prevent contusions due to external shocks.
In addition to these roles, athletic tape also plays a critical role in restricting joint range of motion. It is used for this purpose in order to to help prevent or treat fractures or dislocations.