It’s on their stomachs, their backsides, their legs. Everywhere you look during the summer Olympics, it seems athletes have brightly coloured strips of tape covering some part of their body.
It’s called Kinesio tape and is supposed to support and stabilize muscles and joints without impacting circulation or range of motion. The Kinesio Taping method has been around since 1979, according to founder Kenzo Kase.
And while some athletes were using Kinesio tape during the Beijing Olympics, its popularity seems to have surged in London 2012. Twitter is filled with chatter from users questioning what the colourful strips on athletes’ bodies are, and whether or not it actually provides a therapeutic benefit.
Well, does it?
Reuters analyzed research and questioned several experts about the supposed ability of the tape to provide support and alleviate pain and pressure while allowing athletes to move.
It turns out scientific research hasn’t backed the significant claims behind Kinesio tape. A review published in Sports Medicine in February found little evidence supporting the use of the tape for management or prevention of injury, according to the Reuters report.
But ardent supporters can’t be swayed.
“It’s absolutely bloody brilliant,” physiotherapist Paul Hobrough told Australia’s The Age, explaining that it works well for helping runners with injuries.
It’s possible that as more research is done looking at Kinesio tape, evidence will emerge showing that it does have a therapeutic benefit. However, it’s also likely that any benefits may simply be a placebo effect, which, although purely psychological, can help some athletes perform at their best.