KT Tape: A Product That Athletes Are Sticking With

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During the 2008 Summer Olympics, quite a buzz was created about a different type of athletic tape, Kinesiology Tape, used by some of the athletes. Better known as KT Tape, it's actually been around long before Kerri Walsh used it during her '08 gold medal performance in sand volleyball.

What exactly is KT Tape, and how does it differ from regular athletic tape? STACK went right to the source and spoke with Jim Jenson, vice president of KT Tape, to find out about this sticky product.

STACK: What KT Tape?
Jim Jenson:
KT Tape is basically a sports medicine product that's used to treat a whole range of different kinds of muscle, joint and tendon-related pains and injuries. It's very effective with many of the common injuries that athletes experience. The product has actually been around and used to treat elite athletes in the United States for about 15 years. It's been a clinical product, used primarily by orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists and chiropractors—people who treat elite athletes.

STACK: How does KT benefit athletes?
There are a couple different things that KT Tape does. First of all, it can be used to deliver muscle pain relief. It's a very effective solution for treating acute muscle pain; it doesn't matter if it's the neck, back, shoulder, calf or wherever the pain may be. It gives the athlete a chance to treat a specific injury and focus the treatment on that injury, and it's highly effective at accomplishing that. Another great benefit of KT Tape is that it doesn't hinder mobility. Athletes can apply it for whatever their condition is, and they can go out and play, run, do what they do, and it will not hinder their range of motion. It's not like a brace or a compression band or things that are uncomfortable or bulky and that may in fact hinder their performance at some level.

STACK: How is it different from regular athletic tape?
The first difference is [that KT Tape] is made out of 100 percent cotton. If you look at it, it just looks like a cotton weave, like a mesh. The first thing you'll notice when you put it in your hands is that it's very stretchy; it actually stretches to about 160 percent from its original size, which is the same stretch [capability] that our skin has. It's a super-thin stretchy tape [that's] breathable. The whole idea is that it can be applied to the skin and it fits like a body glove. It's not bulky, it's not applied like athletic tape, doesn't get wrapped around a joint or muscle to lock it down. It goes along with the muscle or the tendon to help support the area it's applied to.

STACK: Should KT Tape be used instead of regular athletic tape for any type of injury?
KT Tape is not the end-all solution for injuries. It's best to think of KT Tape as another tool in the toolbox. For a professional like a physical therapist or a chiropractor, there are a lot of different ways to treat a patient; it just depends on the nature of the injury. KT Tape is a very effective solution for certain types of injuries, and it's really not a solution for others, to be perfectly honest. For example, if somebody has a second-degree ankle sprain, they need more stability around the ankle. But for many other types of injuries, [like] shin splints and plantar injuries, IT band sprains and knee pains, [athletes] may be using athletic tape but they really don't need to. KT Tape would be a better solution; it would provide the treatment that they need, and they wouldn't have that uncomfortable brace that they normally wear.

STACK: How long does the tape last before you have to reapply it?
The other benefit of KT Tape is that you can apply it and actually keep it on for multiple days at a time. We recommend that you don't wear it for more than five days. You can wear it in the shower or in the pool. For water sport athletes, this is the perfect solution. We are sponsors of the USA Water Polo Team and USA Swim Team. Water sports athletes love it, because they can put it on and the tape will stay on in the pool. By wearing it for multiple days, athletes get the benefit of an ongoing treatment, not just when they're playing, but afterwards as well.

STACK: Can athletes apply KT Tape themselves or should a trainer apply it?
Clinicians have been teaching athletes how to tape themselves for a long time. All we did was take it to the next level—making [it] specifically for the athlete and giving them instructions so they know how to put it on themselves. It's been a great success. People tend to really understand it.

STACK: Any keys to applying the KT Tape?
It's really important that before you put the tape on, the skin is clean and dry. Don't have lotion or oil on the skin, [because that can] keep it from sticking properly. Second, you never want to stretch the last inch and a half or so [of] the ends of the tape. When the ends are put down, just lay them down without putting any kind of a stretch on them.

STACK: Is there any other info that new users should know?
The average box of KT Tape will last [between] 50 and 60 days, depending on usage. It's not like athletic tape, which you basically go through a roll every time you apply it. It lasts a long time and can be used for a lot of different things.

For ordering information and videos on how to apply KT Tape, go to kttape.com.

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock