'Is That a Tattoo?' Therapeutic Tape Grabs the Olympic Spotlight

Premier Health Now

United States figure skater Mirai Nagasu recently made international headlines when she became the third woman in history to land a triple axel in Olympic competition. At the same time, Nagasu, who is competing at the 2018 games in PyeongChang, South Korea, was also gaining attention for a thin rectangular mark that ran the length of her right inner thigh.

A Mystery Solved

As viewers speculated on social media, most seemed to think it was some kind of a tattoo or bruise. Eventually the questions were answered when it was revealed that Nagasu was actually wearing a USA-branded version of a therapeutic kinesiology product known as KT Tape. 

KT Tape’s manufacturer took the opportunity to explain that their product is “used to provide pain relief and support” for athletes.

Premier Health Now reached out to Brian Jans, PT, DPT, SCS, a board-certified sports medicine specialist with Upper Valley Medical Center for Sports Medicine, to learn more about the benefits of KT Tape.

Three Types of Therapy

“It's an elastic tape that can be used for three different types of therapy,” says Jans. “One is to lift the outer layer of skin off underlying tissue to help with swelling or bruising. It’s also used to inhibit muscles to relax by anchoring the tape in one spot and pulling it in a certain direction. And it can facilitate muscles to work by anchoring the tape in the opposite direction.”

Though the mystery around Nagasu put a unique spotlight on the use of KT Tape, it has been a long-trusted resource for trainers and athletes of numerous sports to speed healing and ensure peak performance.

“I’ve seen it produce some fantastic results, depending on the need,” says Jans. “For Nagasu, the tape could have been used to help her muscles work more effectively or to even help relax them if they were strained.”

As with any pain relief or therapy regimen, it is always recommended to consult a physician to discuss questions and risk factors before beginning use.