Taping (aka 'External Ligaments')

An old judo coach once tried to help me with an injury by saying: “there are internal ligaments in the body, but there are also external ligaments that are available to you” as he handed me the roll of white athletic tape. I often think of his “external ligaments” comment as I tape up the small injuries that plague me since I am no longer in my twenties.

Applying tape correctly accomplishes two things: 1 – it limits the mobility of a joint and providing stability, and 2 – it provides compression. Both of these actions can be useful when trying to train with an injury, and prevent re-injury of a weakened area.

Taping techniques can be very simple, such as wrapping your finger to provide protection to a hyperextended digit, or very complicated, such as trying to provide protection and support to a damaged shoulder. There are books, courses, and internet resources available on the subject of athletic taping, and if you use tape for anything more complicated than wrapping your fingers you might want to to track them down.

One golden rule of taping is that it MUST NOT IMPAIR CIRCULATION. Getting your taping job tight enough to offer support, but not so tight as to cut off blood flow, can be a tricky balance at first; don’t be afraid to unwrap your taping job and start again if it is too tight.

I would also caution you against using tape each and every session, because you may be weakening the joint in question by making it reliant on the additional support. Tape is only part of the solution, not the whole solution. If you have a joint that is so unstable that it always requires tape then perhaps what you really need is some skilled physiotherapy instead.

Buy tape in large quantities (it’s cheaper that way) and take it to every class. Ed Beneville, author of The Guard and Passing the Guard, contributes: “I am a fan of duct tape. Athletic tape is great but the prices are ridiculous. Duct tape does the job almost as well but at a fraction of the price.” Regardless of the type of tape I am using, I try to always have some tape in my gym bag, because even if I don’t need it, someone else surely will.

Comment on this page with Facebook