What’s that tape?
Originally published on 06/07/16 00:00
Two years ago Nick Kyrgios pulled off a memorable upset against Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon. But it wasn’t just his big serve and powerful forehands that caught the eye of TV viewers. What appeared to the casual observer to be a tattoo on his right forearm, on closer inspection was actually something altogether less painful – Dynamic Tape.
While traditional kinesiology tape is designed to lift the skin and take pressure off injured areas, Dynamic Tape is designed to reduce load on injured body parts while still allowing full range of movement.
“The tape was designed to overcome some issues that we had and provide solutions for our clients,” explains inventor Dr Ryan Kendrick, an Australian muskoloskeletal physiotherapist who worked with Greg Rusedski later in his career. “We know that many problems occur as a result of too much load or the inability of the body to deal with the load.
“Kinesiology tapes have a similar elasticity and thickness to the skin. They are designed to lift the skin to create space to perhaps take pressure off painful structures or enhance circulation. We wanted to be able to apply something to the body to reduce that load either by absorbing some of it directly – working like a bungee cord – or by modifying the movement to indirectly reduce load. However, we needed to be able to do this in a way that did not restrict movement so that the player could perform all their usual skills.”
With its unique four-way stretch, Dynamic Tape can create up to 15 kilograms of resistance without limiting range of movement in all directions. The tape caught the eye of physio Stefan Duell, who has worked with the likes of Novak Djokovic, Philipp Kohlschreiber, Alexander Zverev and the Serbian Davis Cup team.
“Dynamic Tape is very useful to help reduce the load when we are unable to do it in other ways such as rest or changing equipment,” says Duell. “This can help a player get through an important event with an injury. By acting like a little spring, it does some of the work each time they land, for example if it is on their calf or quadriceps. This reduces the work done by the body and over the course of a five-set match it might just help them to not fatigue as much and to recover a little quicker between matches.”
Kate Mahony was first introduced to Dynamic Tape when she was working as a physiotherapist for the Women’s Tennis Association. Now head women’s physiotherapist at the Australian Open, Mahony also works for Cricket Australia. “In the women's game Dynamic Tape has been used a lot for Achilles tendon issues to reduce load through the tendon,” says Mahony.
“Players are vulnerable to lower limb tendinopathies with the constant change in surface and therefore change in load through the Achilles tendon. Dynamic tape is useful to provide the 'bungee cord' effect and reduce the load through the achilles tendon."
Mahony has also used the tape for helping to improve technique as well as treating injury. “A hip spiral tape encourages external rotation of the hip, and therefore increased activation of the glutes, can help an athlete improve lower limb biomechanics and improve their lower limb power,” explains Mahony.
It is not just tennis players who have reaped the benefits of Dynamic Tape, which was launched in 2010 after several years of development. it is quite remarkable that the company, which is based on the tiny Pacific island of Vanuatu, has expanded rapidly and is now available in more than 25 countries worldwide, thanks predominantly to word-of-mouth endorsements.
Dynamic Tape is used by professional athletes on football fields, golf courses and tennis courts around the world, but what about for amateur players? “It could be useful when you know you will be playing more than usual,” suggests Duell. “Club players often visit the physio after a big tournament or the club championships where they’ve done more than their body is used to.
“A player might have a niggling achilles tendon or tennis elbow which can be managed if they play once or twice a week, because they have time to recover. But if they come out and play a big tournament with a couple of matches each day and over a few days the tendon is not adapting to handling that load it could flare up significantly.”
Kendrick, who recounts an example of how Dynamic Tape helped a player fully lift his heel for the first time 22 years after surgery to repair a ruptured achilles heel, stresses that application of the tape should be done, at least in the first instance, by a professional.
“The best way is to be shown the technique by a health care practitioner skilled in the application and who has assessed you to see what is required, applied the technique and evaluated its effectiveness in your situation,” says Kendrick. “Some simple techniques for fairly straightforward injuries like muscle tears or plantar fasciitis or to reduce load generally for some conditions like jumper’s knee can be found online.”