Athletic taping -- that somewhat alien stripe of tape across a player's shoulder, arm or leg -- became a performance-boosting strategy on the volleyball court during the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Athletes believed that taping positively impacted volleyball performance because the specialized athletic tape imitated the elasticity of skin, providing stability and support to muscles and joints. In addition, this type of athletic tape doesn’t restrict blood flow or limit range of motion. Athletic taping is flexible enough to provide musculoskeletal and soft-tissue support. It is specifically designed for use in a competitive environment.
Athletic tape used in volleyball is formulated from a cotton-based, latex-free heat-activated acrylic adhesive. Kinesio-taping is the most studied method of athletic taping. Its proposed scientific benefits include positional stimulus through the skin to align fascial tissues, sensory stimulation to enable motion and removal of edema by directing exudates toward a lymph duct, according to the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons. However, Aaron Brook, director of sports medicine for USA Volleyball, asserts the results of Kinesio-taping are “hit-and-miss.”
Psychological Impact of Taping
The spike in popularity of Kinesio-tape in Olympic competition has ultimately sparked new-found scientific interest in determining the effect of athletic tape on performance level. The primary benefit of athletic tape is ultimately pain management from ankle sprains and related injuries. Furthermore, the use of athletic tape, like Kinesio-tape, enables athletes to gain peace of mind during competition. Olympic champion Kerri Walsh Jennings told surgeon William Schobert, "[Kinesio-tape] has helped me with function, stability, blood flow, and peace of mind.” The psychological benefits of athletic taping are perhaps the most prominent effects of its use on volleyball performance, according to Walsh Jennings' comment.
Clinical Trials on Performance
Clinical trials review the efficiency of athletic taping on scapular motion and muscle performance in volleyball, but they aren't conclusive. In 2012, a relative study performed by the "International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy" on the effects of Kinesio-taping for basketball players found no negative effects on improvements from functional performance tests. The study utilized five tests to measure the efficiency of athletic tape; the hopping test, single-limb hurdle test, vertical jump test, Standing Heel Test and Star Excursion Balance Test. All tests were performed in varied conditions, such as without tape, with placebo tape, standard athletic tape and Kinesio-tape. No form of tape had significant effect on test performance.
RockTape is a specific brand of Kinesio-tape used to promote the healing process from injuries like shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendon and runner’s knee, according to the American Council On Exercise. It’s advertised as “stretchier, stickier, cheaper and cooler” than generic Kinesio-tape, and is also touted as the only type of athletic tape that actually improves performance. No scientific evidence supports that claim. RockTape provides similar benefits to athletes as Kinesio-tape, such as muscle and joint support, and swelling reduction. The medical concept of bringing blood to the surface is supposed to increase muscle stability and delay fatigue, which ideally improves athletic performance on the volleyball court.
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