At first glance it may seem like hype. It obviously preys on an athlete’s weakness for ANYTHING that may help their injury or give them a slight advantage. It especially seems suspicious how it was so prevalent and brightly colored all over the Olympics. But Kinesio tape (or Sport Therapy tape) is not what it first appears to be.
The scientific research results, as of now, have been weak or inconclusive. I read a few interviews with doctors who were very skeptical. One echoed my thoughts about how they couldn’t imagine how a tape stuck on the surface of the skin can affect change on the inner muscle that is injured. They suggested (as did other doctors and articles) that it must be a placebo effect. All made sure to credit the placebo effect with real attributes and real advantages that are worthwhile, therefore approving of the Kinesio tape in a roundabout way. It wasn’t clear if they were covering their bases in case it turned out to be truly effective or if they believed very strongly in the power of the placebo effect to assist an athlete.
But as I looked into the claims of the tape, I realized the point was not to somehow support or stabilize the muscle. The Kinesio tape is used in a vastly different way than standard taping of injuries that high impact sports like football have been doing for years. The placement of the tape on the Olympic athletes is in the direction of the muscle. What it is actually doing is lifting the skin slightly over the muscle, and the claim is this allows more blood and lymphatic fluid to flow over and around the muscle, aiding to its health and healing.
This brings my thoughts to acupuncture, and how the effects of that have been substantiated but causation has not been determined. This may be a similar situation. Without knowing why it works, the scientific community doesn’t feel comfortable endorsing it. But the tape is such a new phenomenon on which not many studies have been done, and the research as a whole has not been conclusive yet.
So, does it work? Yes, it may work, either by the claim of creating tension on the skin above the muscle or simply the placebo effect. And even if it does not create miracles, no one feels there is any harm in trying it unless an athlete goes beyond their comfortable range of motion due to their reliance on the tape. I’m going to try it!