If you’re into any form of grappling, you likely use tape in some way, shape, or form. Why do grapplers use tape and what is it for? The following is a brief explanation of some of the most common tapes used by athletes and clinicians to protect and prevent injuries, as well as to treat specific areas of the body in order to provide cues for more efficient movement.
Kinesiology tape (Kinesiotape, Rocktape, K tape) was developed in Japan in the 70’s and was more recently used in the US sometime in the 90’s. It has a variety of uses but it’s mainly used as a corrective instead of a supportive type of tape. It can be used to aid in providing feedback to certain areas of the body, aid in lymph function, and to help decrease pain. There is no medication in this type of tape. A certain amount of tension is applied at different areas of the of the tape and it can be cut into various different patterns depending on the desired effect. The tape usually lasts about 3 to 5 days, and you can keep it on as long as there is no skin irritation.
Leukotape is used as a corrective and supportive tape. It can be used on places such as the AC, glenohumeral, and pattellofemoral joints to aid in the realigning of a joint or bone. This tape has no stretch and is really strong. Cover-roll is recommended with this tape because of the level of zinc oxide in the tape and it can easily irritate the skin. It is intended to be used for a short duration (hours) and it’s important to check the skin periodically. Taking this tape off can be difficult, and it should not be pulled off quickly or you risk skin irritation.
Compressive type tapes like Coban can be used over athletic tape to help keep the tape from getting too wet or dirty. This type of tape offers very little support but the tape is very flexible and easy to wrap around joints. It can be used to cover blistered areas or small cuts, etc. in a pinch.
Then there is good old athletic tape. It is more of a supportive tape (Mueller, Johnson and Johnson, etc). This is the most common tape used for training or at competitions because it can be molded to fingers, ankles and other joints easily. It has no stretch and also contains zinc oxide. You wear this tape for the duration of whatever activity it is you’re doing then usually remove it. Trainers scissors usually work best to remove the tape as it binds up and gets sticky after use.
Tape can be very helpful if used correctly. Should you ever have questions regarding what type of tape to use and how to apply it, see your physical therapist, athletic trainer, or any other qualified medical professional for more information.
Joshua Arellano, PT, DPT
Doctor of Physical Therapy