Text: Dr. med. Andreas Krüger (Zurich)
We know about taping in sport since the 2012 European Football Championship at the latest. The muscles maximum tense, with a stony look – the posture of Mario Balotelli in the semi-final against Germany after making it 2-0. Bare, perfectly trained chest. This winning pose immediately burned itself into the spectator’s minds. But what effects do these catchpenny, affixed and gaudily coloured tapes really have? More strength, less pain, more precision and a rapid recovery after exhausting competitions?
The success of this method lasts for more than 30 years. In 1979, the Japanese Dr. Kenzo Kase had the dazzling idea to support and extend the effect his chiropractic therapy by use of elastic cotton tapes. Dr. Kase started his tape therapy with sumo wrestlers by use of skin-coloured tapes, which are based on the consistence of the skin. The finely woven, breathable and highly elastic cotton is glued with tension on affected body locations. Through this, an additional shift of the layers of skin is supposed to take place, because through the movement the skin is being lifted and the pressure on the pain receptors in the lower layers of skin is being reduced. A stimulating effect for the muscles is meant to be induced through the visual appealing technique of application. According to the producers, an additional effect of the heightened circulation and the hereby supported drain of lymph fluid are a consequence of this and conduce to a better regeneration.
The scientific findings in the electronic medical world literature (Pubmed) currently show no consistent, significant results regarding the enduring effect of different tape variants. But case reports exist which achieved to prove the tendential improvement through different applications of the tapes regarding strenght and pain of the athletes of all shades.
In the sport of polo, injuries of the muscles as well as of the sinews and ligaments of the arms which beat the ball develop regularly due to excessive stress. Strikes of the opponent during a tackling as well as the not uncommon downfalls leave painful injuries. Back complaints as a result of strong strikes in an unusual position over the neck of the pony also take a toll on the players due to the maximum strain of the body. During a tournament the applications of the elastic tapes can accomplish a stabilisation of the shoulder and the player can finish the match without a dislocation of the shoulder. Even after a blow on the thumb of the arm which beats the balls the application of a tape can support the detumescence through the drain of the lymph fluid. In the last chukker, when strength becomes the decisive factor, the condition of the player can be influenced by tapings of the upper arm and the forearm. The stabilising tapes can also be helpful at acute knee injuries.
Polo player Andres “Lala” Laplacette is excited about the effect of the tapes: “I tried the tapes for the first time in Baku (during the Arena Polo World Cup Azerbaijan). I fell on my back, and it was hurting quite bad! I had seen similar tapes before on other athletes and I was wondering whether they could help me or not. After trying them I felt more relieved. On the one side it seems like somebody was holding the muscles of my back. And on the other side, the tapes were keeping them warm. I could play the rest of the games with no problem! I was really happy because it was a big opportunity for all of us to play polo there for the first time. On the last day the Dr. Krüger placed me one on my arm, because after two games on the days before, everything was hurting. So I would have liked tapes all over my body!“
The tapes also helped Tito Gaudenzi (polo player) a great deal: “I have had a great experience with tapping in my sport. In Polo we are exposed to a lot of abrupt and extreme movements given the nature of the sport, the speed, riding the horse and playing the game. A lot of common issue are back and shoulder problems. Both can rapidly be improved by taping it the right way before the game. It gives it more stability and increasing movement. In one of my last tournaments in Baku, Azerbaijan I had experienced some severe lower back pain from a prior injury. Dr. Andreas Krüger helped me be ready for the game through the right pre-game work out and most importantly the correct tapping that allowed me to successfully compete again. I can only strongly recommend taping in my sport or any other. Its a simple and effective solution that can easily be applied if and when done correctly.“
In summery, it can be said, therefore, that modern science cannot prove it – but are Mario Balotelli, Serena Williams and David Beckham off the base? In any case they have delivered their sporting performances.
Dr. med. Andreas Krüger
FMH Orthopädie und Traumatologie
Tel: +41 76 479 0330