Does KT Tape Work?
I don’t think I’ve been to a competition this year without seeing an athlete with KT tape somewhere on their body. I suspect none of the athletes had it applied by someone CKTP (took the class to know how to apply it). You Tube may have been the instructor or perhaps just trial and error. Occasionally I look at the various different colors of elastic tape on an athlete and wonder if the intention is truly therapeutic or just art. Occasionally, the athlete has so much KT tape applied, I have to resist my curiosity to go to the coach and ask what the athlete is hoping to achieve – pain relief or perhaps just creativity? By the way, regardless of the color, all KT tape is similar tension: unlike theraband tubing where colors signify various resistance.
The Positives of Using KT Tape
- When put on correctly, there is some research suggesting it can help swelling and decrease pain.
- It’s “cool” and the placebo effect may convince an athlete they are able to do more because they are wearing it.
- It’s not cheap - some may believe it is better than other therapies because they paid more.
- Even if put on incorrectly - it rarely has caused injury, although there are some theoretical risks- if a vessel is compressed on the neck an athlete could get a headache, dizziness, or faint; the skin could get a rash if the athlete is allergic to the adhesive).
The Negatives of Using KT Tape
- It’s elastic and because it doesn’t act like typical athletic tape - should not be used for stability
- KT tape is not the same as athletic tape, pre wrap, McConnell tape, or rock tape - and trying to interchange tapes is sure to disappoint
- There is very little research proving it does anything at all
- A class action law suit suggests that KT tape “promised” more in how effective it is than the company can actually prove (deliver) - you can receive money back if you return to the company
Final Thoughts on KT Tape
I think if applied correctly and for a reason that is in the scope of using the tape - KT tape could be tried – if the athlete thinks it helps (even if research can’t prove why) - then I don’t see any harm. On the other hand, trying to use it for reasons it isn’t intended, or putting it on without knowledge of what you are doing may not only be a waste of money, but potentially results in the athlete missing out on a therapy or treatment that actually could be helping them.
KT tape is not a “fix everything” miracle. It’s basically a stretchy tape. To be fair KT tape is a water resistant, elastic, with pores adhesive tape that, theoretically, slightly lifts the skin if applied correctly, with the goal of reducing swelling and pain.
If you would like your athlete to see a CKTP - email me and I can get you contact information for one in the Kansas City area.
Board Certified Pediatrician with an interest in Sports Medicine
Concussion Management Team