You’ve seen the players this year. Remember when David Stern outlawed the players’ use of long-limb spandex compression shirts and tights from a few seasons back? (I personally saw no problem with it–especially if it was going to help prevent some injuries.) You remember…and then the players had to just where individuals wraps that covered the lower legs, or if you’ve seen Vince Carter and Antawn Jamison this season, they’ve had on the silly-looking, weird padded shoulder shirts, in this ’09-10 season.
Obviously, injuries are part of the game, and protection has been necessary, but have you thought of why maybe some of those times, many of the players have covered up limbs that probably just have been wrapped with athletic tape? Ah ha! You’re onto something, just I have been…many of the players have certainly enjoyed using leg wraps and arm wraps, but sometimes, you can see there’s just an exotic tape job going on. (“That doesn’t need a wrap, does it?”) Boston Celtics forward/center Kevin Garnett is a primary example of a guy whose ligament-stapled knee is supposedly healthy and fixed, but he doesn’t wear knee pads consistently. Instead, you may have what looks to be just tape under his leg wrap, and that mysterious tape has been used on Garnett to aid in his consistent healing and rehabilitation of that formerly mangled right knee, but it’s likely not regular athletic tape–enter KT Tape.
Endorsed by Olympic gold medal-winning volleyball player Kerri Walsh, I was able to pick up a sizable roll of the tape at the 2010 Arnold (yes, that Ahhhhhhnold) Fitness Expo in Columbus, OH (or as it’s better known, The Arnold Classic). The KT Tape representative at the event told me that one of the reasons why most people have little knowledge of the product, pertaining to pro basketball players, is because the NBA hasn’t yet officially sanctioned the tape–although it has not outlawed its use among players, either. From what I gathered, it’s used in many an NBA locker room, but because of its different colors and unorthodox properties, the players cover their taped limbs with neoprene wraps or padded wear much of the time, as team trainers possibly await for how the League wants to introduce the foreign-looking tape to patrons of the game.
Basically, KT Tape is short for its given product name, Kinesiology Therapeutic Tape. It is a specific athletic tape that, according to the tape’s maker and distributor, Lumos Inc., is used to injuries that pertain to muscles and joints; because of how the tape is constructed it, it is made to bond to the skin in such a way that it lifts the dermal layers of flesh away from the nerves that lie beneath, so that pain can be lessened, if not made entirely of null effect, all while still giving way to motion with free range. Naturally, as a guy who’s heavily involved in personal fitness and always looking to gain knowledge and improve performance, while kind of being the unofficial product tester of SLAMonline, I went and sought to use the tape for myself.
After getting some necessary fact-gathering materials from Tzvi Twersky (and after getting his blessing to do what was originally going to be his review, since I had already acquired the product), graciously, I put the KT Tape to work. I have to thank God I’m not injury-prone and I haven’t had to do a whole lot of self-doctoring when it comes to injuries, but the experience was intriguing. The tape itself can be used literally from the neck down to the feet and can be used to treat pain and support the neck, shoulders, elbows, upper and lower back, wrists, upper and lower legs, knees, ankles and feet. So you have runner’s knee? Check. Tennis elbow? Roger that. Spin splints, sprains and tendonitis? Yes, si, and da, it treats all of those ailments. KT Tape can even be used for that blasted plantar fasciitis (…Brandon Roy…Tony Parker…Ron Artest…). In the similitude of Kevin Garnett, I decided to wrap the tape around my knee like he might, and since I just have the occasional symptoms of runner’s knee (non-chronic, knock on wood) and it was the easiest place to apply without needing a second person to assist me, I went for it.
The tape itself can be stretched for certain wrapping methods or stay taut, depending on the area, and actually can be kept in a solid band or split into a “V” shape for unorthodox placement. After swabbing alcohol above and below my knee to ensure good adhesion to my skin, I stretched and wrapped my left knee securely. It felt quite comfortable and it felt surprisingly supportive around my knee. Then, after waiting for the non-latex tape to set on my skin before I did anything else, I went and did some high-impact cardio exercise in the form of rope jumping. Because that activity is the best way for me to measure how much support the KT Tape was going to offer for my knee, I did that for 30 minutes and alternated foot jumps for variety and further measuring and judgement.
Basically, I finished and I had no problems, no pain and the tape was still intact–it was a positive experience. It really was, and it acted like external tendons or ligaments for my knee (in a way that Nike’s Vectran threads in the Flywire technology are used to wrap the foot in athletic shoes–namely in the various Zoom Kobe, Hyperdunk and Hyperize basketball series). Unlike other athletic tapes that stick to your skin and can be painful to remove, I had no such issues, but there are some caveats about the tape that need to be mentioned. For the record, I’m not a hairy guy at all, but if you’re a non-pro athlete, the chances are that you’re not shaving your legs. I said that because while hair with regular athletic tape used on the legs can be painfully plucked from the skin as the regular tape is removed (although many pro athletes, male and female, shave their legs and arms that are wrapped), you won’t come into that same exact problem with KT Tape. Instead, the adhesive properties of the tape are somewhat diminished when you have hair on the portion of your legs that are wrapped, and while you won’t experience pain at all, you may find the tape may curl some at the edges if the skin even has light volumes of hair that are not trimmed down or shaved off. KT Tape also doesn’t stick well against itself (something that is pointed out in the KT Tape instruction manual), so it’s important that the vast majority of the product be directly bonded to the skin.
Also, KT Tape is promoted as being long-lasting in the sense that it can be worn on the skin up to five consecutive days, even when you are wet when bathing and in the pool. I found that it did an above-average job in the shower. The majority of the tape that was firmly held to the skin through adhesive did relatively well, but if you’re doing pool work and other aqua-based activities, I’m pretty sure it’s more single-day use than multi-day use, when longevity is considered. Still, that’s not bad at all. As it dried, it lost some grip, and that might be because I’m not a pro at using the KT Tape, but it’s a somewhat sheer product as well (which allows its to provide good joint flexion with ease).
I do wish the consumer version of the tape itself was wider like the pro versions that are used in the locker rooms, but those versions can be ordered, if necessary. All in all, the experience was good. I expected a heavier, foam-like tape and ended up using what simulated ultra-featherweight versions of plaster cast strips for support, and was pleasantly surprised. I say that if you regularly invest in athletic tape for your active sporting prowess and want to try something that may help in your overall wellness, I highly suggest taking a gander at the innovative KT Tape. It won’t fail you, and at the very least, you can look really cool with it on (especially in blue or pink).
Tzvi Twersky contributed to this story.
Sandy Dover is a novelist/writer, artist and fitness enthusiast, as well as an unrepentant Prince fan (for real). You can find Sandy frequently here at SLAMonline, as well as at Facebook, Associated Content and Twitter.