A brief personal interaction with modern sports medicine

It was a Tuesday evening. Or maybe it was a Thursday evening. In the hard-hitting world of middle school volleyball, the days bleed together, like a pair of childhood friends conjoining their pinpricked thumbs to become brothers in blood.

Or something like that. I’m not good at similes.

Nevertheless, on this particular anonymous weekday evening, I was sitting on a rigid metal bleacher, watching my daughter’s volleyball team work their merry way through a series of bumps, sets, and spikes on the path to certain victory (I think), when I noted a number of the players, both on and off the court, were sitting/walking/bump-set-spiking along with brightly colored tape about their arms and legs. The tape curved around knees and circumvented elbows. It looked a bit like regular athletic tape, except with notches and bends and forks at various intervals, and it was all in various shades of neon-ery, not that generic “flesh-colored” wrap that matches no human flesh that’s ever existed. It screamed “Look at me! I am a thing, and I am probably very expensive!”

“I’ve seen this,” I said to myself. “Kinetic tape, I believe it’s called.”

“It’s actually Kineseo tape,” Google responded when I asked for confirmation. “Kinetic tape is not a thing, you sad Luddite!”

Ok, Google didn’t actually say that. But I felt the sentiment all the same in The Goog’s cold correction to my query.

Suppose you’re not familiar with Kineseo tape (and have not heretofore been yelled at by The Goog for this lack of knowledge). In that case, this is a family of athletic enhancement devices that purport to aid with muscle movement and reduce pain by, I can only assume, making one feel like they can, at a moment’s notice, party the night away at a silent disco under blaring UV lights.

No, in reality, the placement of this tape is supposedly based on the movement mechanics of the body, these elastic strips being meant to lift and hold together muscles and tendons, of which there are a surprising number on a given human being. In fact, if you peruse the websites of the lead purveyors of this “technology” you’ll see examples of people who have so much tape applied to their person that they look like they just barely survived an attack by a Grizzly bear with highlighters for claws.

How does this work, you may be asking? Well, I don’t mind saying, I had the same question, and after exhaustive research (i.e. clicking on the first search result that wasn’t an ad), I can tell you emphatically that I have no idea. How can a piece of fabric applied in a straight line on an arm or even around the curve of a knee lift anything, much less a muscle? The closest analog I can think of are those nasal strips that supposedly can be applied to the nostrils to lift and help people breathe better. If anyone has tried those things, you likely know that if anything they make breaking more difficult because, oh, I don’t know, you’ve added weight to the nostrils!

Maybe I shouldn’t knock it because, much like, say, drinking garlic dipping sauce to fight a massive headache, I haven’t tried it. So, maybe it works wonders. Maybe these young kids, with their aged muscles and decrepit bone structures, feel a sort of miraculous freedom of movement as they prance merrily along covered in pink and green tape! Maybe it’s the difference between the 6th grader who consistently hits the ball out into the hall and through the concession stand, and one who can sprint to every position and spike the ball at 100 mph from every inch of the floor (although the latter is EXTREMELY rare, in my experience).

Maybe I need to reflect on the very real possibility that I’m just a bit salty about this whole thing because, when I was playing sports in school, our wound care consisted of an old toolbox full of glorified duct tape, an ice machine that might have a few cubes but only if the Pepsi wasn’t selling well that night, and no shortage of dads who would loiter around the bench laughing at your grotesquely swollen ankle telling you to “walk it off”.

Or maybe I just need to let it go, and spend more time reflecting on how awesome it would be if Grizzly bears actually had highlighters for claws!


7 thoughts on “A brief personal interaction with modern sports medicine

  1. Funny you should write about this today. I had trouble sleeping last night because of a persistent sharp pain in my Achilles tendon. When I got up this morning I applied some kinesiology tape my physical therapist had recommended months ago for an elbow injury. The pain went away almost immediately, I haven’t had a twinge all day, and I went on a 2-mile walk. I tend to be a skeptic about these things, but either that stuff works or I’m a sucker for the placebo effect. Either way, I’ll take it.

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