If you tuned in to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, you may have noticed several athletes sporting brightly colored tape strung across various body parts. The interesting adhesive designs were not bold fashion statements but attempts to support muscle and joint groups without restricting full-range athletic motion.
Kinesio tape, the athletic adhesive, was developed by a Japanese doctor more than three decades ago. It is claimed that when applied by a professional who knows special taping techniques, it can do much in the way of muscle and joint support and targeted pain relief by having a “lifting” effect on skin that relieves the target areas of pressure.
Despite its popularity, researchers — and even the tape’s inventor Dr. Kenzo Kase — recognize that there is little scientific evidence to back up claims that Kenesio is anything more than an athletic placebo.
“We have many people researching but the society of Kinesio taping therapy itself – the International Kinesio Taping Association – is only five years old. We need more evidence. We do not have research reports. Part of the reason people are using Kinesio tape is to find the science,” Kase said in a recent BBC interview.
John Brewer, a professor of sports science at the University of Bedfordshire in the U.K., has doubts that there is much evidence to be found.
“As a scientist, I’m still not convinced about the underlying mechanisms,” he told Reuters.
Brewer is skeptical about the supposed “lifting” effect and how moving the skin could benefit muscles and joints deep inside the body.
But the professor notes that despite any proven physical gain, the mental boost provided by believing the tape is a performance enhancer is enough to warrant its use. He believes an effective placebo “could make all the difference between success and failure.”
The takeaway point for tapers: If you have a ritual that makes you feel better, stronger or smarter, and it isn’t health damaging, it may help your performance and your health.