Let's face it: jiu jitsu isn't like playing patty cake. Despite it's name, it's really hard not to get some kind of injury over the course of your journey in this sometimes not-so-gentle martial art. If you haven't had at least some kind of tweak or sprain yet, you either haven't trained long enough... or you're not training hard enough.
Either way, at some point in your jiu jitsu career, you will have to become familiar with taping. We're here to make sure you're doing it right. Read on...
Types of Tape
Not all tape is the same. While you might be most familiar with that white, "felt" athletic tape (often left littered across the mat after a training session), there are many types used for athletic support. Which one you choose to use depends on what you're looking to do. In the last decade, kinesiology tape has become a mainstay in the athletic community for relieving pain, reducing inflammation and providing flexible support to any area of the body imaginable. These benefits come from the tape creating "a microscopic lifting action," pulling the skin and fascia away from the inflamed muscle, relieving pressure from the lymph and blood vessels, as well as the nerves that trigger pain responses, essentially activating "both neurological and circulatory healing mechanisms." However, some injuries require more rigid support, preventing the injured joint from moving in a way that could aggravate the injury.
Especially if you're using kinesiology tape - which can cost a pretty penny - you don't want to just slap it on willy-nilly. In jiu jitsu, we sweat. If you haven't properly prepared the area, that tape is going to come off within the first few minutes of the roll. Before you tape up, make sure your skin is clean, dry and free of any oils or creams, so that it sticks well. A pre-tape adhesive spray is also an option if you really want some lasting power. If you're a hairy dude (or dudette, we don't judge), you should also consider shaving the area to be taped, which also makes the adhesive stick better... and helps prevent any painful removal. However, some resources say to avoid shaving, as "hair follicles have receptors, which give your brain feedback."
Know Your Body
The most important thing in taping an injury - or even to prevent an injury - is to know the structure and operation of your ligaments (the bands of elastic tissue around your joints that connect bone to bone). That makes it much easier for you to determine where to place your strips tape in order to support whatever body part it is you're trying to target. Failing to do so will most certainly fail to provide the support you intended, and could even cause more injury by impeding the natural movement of your joint. You don't have to be an expert physical therapist, but you can do some research so you have some basic knowledge of the affected area.
Notes on Applying
There's no shortage of step-by-step guides and videos out there on exactly how to tape a specific injury, so I'm not going to go into detail on that. However, here are a few guiding principles that you should follow while taping:
- When taping around a limb, avoid applying the tape perpendicular. Because our limbs aren't the same circumference down the entire length, taping across creates uneven pressure at the top and bottom of the tape. This is not such a problem with stretchy kinesiology tape, but still a good rule to follow.
- Don't tape too loose or too tight. Loose taping doesn't provide the support needed, but taping too tight will restrict the blood flow below the limb. Some tape loosens up a bit after taping, but if you're starting to lose feeling to your extremities, or if the tape is irritating your skin, remove it immediately and try again.
- Research, research, research. You can't become a taping master overnight. There are a ton of great taping guides out there from real sports physical therapists. Use them.
If you haven't already browsed the links peppered throughout the article above, check out these great resources for more information and taping instruction guides:
- "Strapping and Taping" by Sports Injury Clinic
- "Taping Guide" by First Aid 4 Sport
- "Kinesiology Tape - the Facts" by TheraTape
- "How, When, And Why To Use Athletic Tape" by BodyBuilding.com
Remember, the best way to avoid injury is to tap early, and tap often. However, sometimes shi... "stuff" happens on the mat. Being knowledgable about taping and how to do it effectively will help you get back on the mat in no time!
Train on... safely. Oss.