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Tips on Athletic Taping

Updated: Jan 8

Taping is a critical art as well as a science when it comes to the treatment and prevention of athletic injuries. Taping takes practice, creativity, and adaptability. It is a very important part of a sports medicine practice. Not only is taping therapeutic, but it can also be diagnostic in the evaluation and treatment of injuries in athletes since the athlete’s response to taping can indicate the effectiveness of orthotics in controlling biomechanical issues. While taping is not a substitute for a comprehensive rehabilitation program, it is a key element in allowing an athlete to return to activity and prevent further injury. We utilize taping for injury care and protection. It allows functional movement while limiting excessive motion. Taping stabilizes and supports the injured area and prevents additional injury. Taping also provides proprioceptive feedback. Improper application of tape can lead to blisters, skin irritation and abnormal stress on the affected area as well as an increased risk of injury. Athletic tape can be porous or nonporous. Porous tape allows for heat and moisture to pass through and help keep the skin cool and dry. Nonporous tape is more occlusive and increases the potential for skin damage and irritation from friction and heat. An added benefit of porous tape occurs if the tape must be left on for an extended period of time. Also you could use elastic tape, which allows for muscles to contract without impeding circulation or neurological function. you should stretch the elastic tape one-third to one-half of its elastic capabilities before applying it. If it is too tight, the tape can restrict the function of the body part and lead to discomfort. No matter what kind of tape you use, always emphasize monitoring of the taped area for tingling, numbness, or impairment of circulation always. Spray tape adherent helps the tape adhere better to the skin and offers a layer of protection. Be sure to use the spray in a well-ventilated area. While areas such as the Achilles tendon or the dorsum of the foot and ankle may be sensitive to friction, one can protect these areas by adding a pad with lubricant such as petroleum jelly. Clinicians should cover any areas of blisters or open wounds prior to taping. How To Safeguard Against Skin Irritation and Allergic Reactions Remind patients that it is best to remove the tape immediately after the sport activity to minimize skin irritation. It is important for clinicians to inspect the skin regularly for any signs of irritation or allergic reaction when taping an athlete on a regular basis. When dealing with an athlete who is sensitive to tape, is taped daily or is allergic to tape, it is important to use a foam under-wrap or pre-wrap. you should apply under-wrap over the skin in a single layer as several layers will increase sweating and moisture retention under the tape. Always ask the athlete about any history of tape irritation or allergies, and beware of the fair skinned athlete

Key Principles of Taping:

1. Place the foot and ankle in the position it is to be stabilized. Any movement while taping will cause wrinkles and uneven application to the tape.

2. Select the appropriate type of tape for the area and overlap tape at least half the width of the tape below to help prevent irritating the skin from skin separation.

3. To prevent constriction of the area to be taped, be sure to avoid continuous taping whenever possible.

4. Always attempt to keep the roll of tape in hand while taping.

5. While applying the tape to the skin, smooth and mould it to avoid wrinkles or excessive pressure over prominent areas.

6. Apply the tape firmly and with a purpose. Don’t just lay it on the skin but fit the contour of the skin with the pull in the desired direction to control the motion in that area.

7. Begin taping with an anchor piece, which will serve as a substrate to attach strips to, and finish with a lock strap to secure the tape job.

8. Tape directly to the skin to give the maximum amount of support and protection.

9. To minimize strain, one must be in the proper position for applying tape at a comfortable height

The chosen tape width depends on the area one is covering. More narrow tape is required for more acute angles to fit the contours of the area to be taped. Commonly, one would use 1/2- to 1-inch tape on the foot and 1.5-inch tape on the ankle. Tearing tape is an important skill to master as learning to tear tape effectively from different positions is essential for speed and efficiency. To tear tape, hold it in the preferred hand with the index finger hooked through the centre of the tape roll and the thumb pressing the tape roll’s outer edge (pinched). Then grasp the loose end between the thumb and index finger with the other hand. With both hands, make a quick, scissors-like action to tear the tape.

You should also emphasize careful tape removal. It is best to remove tape immediately after the sports activity by using tape scissors, gently lifting tape away from the skin and advancing along the body’s natural contours. you must stabilize the skin while pulling the tape in the direction of hair growth. Avoid tearing the tape off rapidly as this could damage the skin and cause an abrasion or “skin burn.”

Taping is an art and there are many different techniques in the way how you tape a foot, knee or shoulder. it doesn't matter which technique you use, I encourage you to play around with tape and find what's work best in your hands, as long as you know your anatomy.

Further reading:

Book: taping techniques, principles and practice By: Rose Macdonald

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