Kinesio tape: Many Olympians are wearing it, so does it really work?

It started showing up at the 2008 Olympics, we saw a lot of it in the 2012 Olympics, and I’ve seen in on multiple athletes in the 2016 Olympics–  swatches in various colors applied in seemingly haphazard patterns to the body surface.  With all the exposure, many are asking what does it do and does it work? Kinesio tape was developed in the 1970s by Kenzo Kaze-a chiropractor and acupuncturist. It is made of cotton, is latex free, and has a heat activated acrylic adhesive.

Plenty of elite athletes believe in it and claim that the tape is comfortable, flexible, and provides support to muscles and joints without limiting range of motion. It replicates the thickness and elasticity of skin, helping with function, stability, blood flow, and peace of mind.


“Enthusiasts also believe that kinesiology tape speeds healing by slightly lifting skin away from sore or injured tissues, improving blood flow and lymphatic drainage, and that it supports injured joints and muscles without impeding their range of motion. But these purported benefits are largely unsubstantiated.” – The New York Times 

It’s true, clinical trials have not provided much support for the tape. One study found that the tape provided relief from shoulder pain immediately after application, but, the effects did not last over time. Another study found small beneficial results with range of motion.

None of the studies reported negative effects which may be why trainers use the tape on athletes who report benefits with it. According to Aaron Brock ATC, director of sports medicine for USA Volleyball, he has had “hit and miss results…some people absolutely love it…and sometimes, from a therapeutic perspective, we’re doing so many things,we don’t know what is effective and what isn’t…”

The bottom line is, more scientific research is needed to make a conclusive determination for its claims. But I have to give Kinesio tape credit since i’ve seen so many Olympians wearing it. Plus, it just looks really cool.


**This article was written by Jennifer Cordover, Director of Encore Performance Rehab in Birmingham, AL. 


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