By Natalie Turner | Comment

It seems a distant memory watching Vets play on a late Saturday afternoon with my team-mates having to drink two fingers of snakebite and black every time someone who was wearing a tubigrip touched the ball.

But just as my youth and carefree days have been replaced with far more respectable activities such as being the Sport Rehabilitator for the Surbiton HC men’s and women’s squads, tubigrip has also faded into the past. Now we see the emergence of coloured sticky stuff as the new miracle to help players defy age and medical science by keeping them on the pitch.

The big question though is does this new sticky stuff (commonly known as K-Tape) help?

Well, the companies that produce it will tell you that K-tape can be used to reduce pain and inflammation, delay fatigue, enhance strength and optimise performance amongst other benefits. Dig deeper and some manufacturers will claim that K-Tape can “re-educate the neuromuscular system”, “speed up the recovery of over-active muscles” and “help bring dormant muscle back to life”.

“Straight in my basket!” I hear you cry.

Well, here’s what research tells us. There is in fact no convincing evidence for the effectiveness of the use of K-tape. Whilst there is good evidence to suggest a short-term reduction in pain, studies suggesting other possible benefits are of questionable quality.

The fact is that K-Tape needs to be applied in a very specific way and, most importantly, K-tape should only be used after you’ve had your injury assessed by a healthcare professional who will then determine the best treatment option for you.

As tempting as it might be, self-applied K-tape is unlikely to get you back any quicker from injury and nor will it keep you running around long enough to realise the dream of being carried aloft from the pitch with the crowd cheering your last minute victorious goal.

As one of those qualified people, I’m happy to use K-tape as it’s very adhesive and can stay in place even when an athlete becomes sweaty.

It is also elastic and so conforms to muscles and joints well and is relatively easy to apply.

I’ll often apply K-tape for proprioceptive reasons, to help with posture, chronic tendon issues and to reduce swelling but the results will vary.

But that doesn’t mean everyone has a couple of rolls that they use when they get a bit tired or sore. Any player using it will first have been assessed by medical staff who will have made an informed decision on how best to manage their injury.

The K-tape will be part of that process.

So, if you’ve been thinking that this could be the answer to that hamstring, back or shoulder pain, my recommendation is simply to ask whether you really know what you’re doing with it and, if not, then go and see someone who does.

Natalie Turner (MSc) is a lecturer in Sport Rehabilitation at St Mary’s University specialising in pitch side trauma and immediate care in sport. In 2012 she started working for Surbiton Men’s 1st Squad and is now the lead healthcare professional for both Men’s and Women’s 1st team squads. During the summer Natalie likes to catch up with friends and family who have forgotten what she looks over the hockey season.