The primary function of athletic taping is to provide external support to joints under load, and to stabilise the injured area while allowing functional movement of the affected joint.
By limiting excessive range of motion, taping can allow the athlete to return back to the field while preventing any further injury.
Taping also helps to enhance proprioception feedback to the central nervous system, which stimulates enhanced muscular control around the injured region.
This was demonstrated by Callaghan et al. in their study on the effect of patellar taping on knee joint proprioception, which resulted in proprioceptive enhancement in healthy subjects with poor proprioceptive ability.
The use of athletic taping assists in the maintenance of optimal biomechanics in a number of ways.
For instance, in their book titled Conservative Management of Sports Injuries, Hyde et al. note that ankle taping is observed to reduce inversion velocity while facilitating a protective neuromuscular response.
With regard to pain management, the authors note that taping can help mechanically unload inflamed neural tissue along the nerve track, which relieves much of the pain and irritation.
This was supported by Maria Constantinou and Mark Brown in their review of literature relating to the therapeutic effects of taping used in the management of a number of sports injuries.
Different unloading techniques of taping such as box or diamond taping, have been developed to reduce the strain of soft tissues. In this process, the tape is applied end to end, to surround and gather the soft tissues towards the painful area with the intention of unloading these tissues.
A functional evaluation of the injured region is required before tape application, to ensure that the tape does not cause hindrance in performance.
For this purpose, the tape should not be applied on too tightly as this can restrict functional movement of the joints and cause discomfort.
Certain taping techniques such as Low-Dye taping have been shown to reduce pain and excessive pronation in the treatment of conditions such as Plantar Fasciitis.
Park et al. proved this in their study, by using a visual analog scale to evaluate pain and stability in patients with the condition.
There was a marked reduction in pain with an increase in the transfer area of the centre of gravity, after the application of Low-Dye taping signifying enhanced stability.
Athletic tape can be either elastic or nonelastic.
Elastic tapes are available in different tensile strengths and help in increasing circulation over larger areas of the body.
Nonelastic tapes are porous which help to keep the skin cool and dry by allowing heat and moisture to pass through. These are particularly beneficial when the tape is required to be left on for an extended period of time.
The area being taped needs to be monitored consistently so as to avoid any kind of allergic reaction, irritation or impediment of circulation.
Athletic taping is both therapeutic and diagnostic in nature; it is used as a guide to prescribe orthotics.
While used in sports health care to treat and prevent a number of sports-related injuries, athletic taping serves as a good indicator of the effectiveness of an orthotic inclusion in an active rehabilitation program.
If taping is found to be useful in causing functional improvement in the patient, as was the case in a study conducted by Meier et al., athletic taping can be used as a guide to prescribe foot orthotics in the treatment of lower limb pathologies.
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