As a specialist in both Post-Rehabilitation and Sports Performance, I always keep an eye out for new products that may be beneficial to my clients. Knowing this, my ex-manager and friend, Kim Perez, asked if I was interested in attending a demo/talk about a new product - RockTape1. She has no current affiliation with the RockTape company other than as an interested professional like myself. We went to the demo two weeks ago and at the end, I purchased 2 rolls to try on myself and my clients. What follows are some of the observations and FAQs that I've compiled over the last two weeks.
If you are generally unfamiliar with other taping techniques, you may be interested in looking at the references, available at the bottom of this page. My observations will compare RockTape to other taping techniques, and in particular Kinesio Tex Tape2.
What is RockTape?
RockTape is a new taping product, functionally similar to Kinesio Tape2. While Kinesio Tape focuses on therapy and rehab markets, the primary market for RockTape is performance athletics. Both tapes claim possible indirect analgesic effects, while RockTape takes the concept further, claiming performance enhancement.
The tape itself is cotton based and backed with an adhesive said to be less irritating on the skin. The major difference between RockTape/Kinesio Tape (henceforth abbreviated to R-Tape and K-Tape, respect ively) and traditional athletic tape is the way that they stretch. Taping with traditional Athletic Tape, is a bracing method, utilizing an inelastic medium to inhibit the movement of a joint or group of muscles. K-Taping and now R-Taping are new techniques utilizing elasticity similar to that of skin. K-Tape is advertised to have a stretch length of 130% to 140% of it's original length3. Meanwhile, R-Tape is said to stretch to 190% of its original length4 .
The purpose of both tapes is to lift the skin and the surface fascia with it. This theoretically promotes blood flow in and out of the deep fascia as well as innervating the underlying musculature.< /span>
Why should I be interested?
If you are an athlete, both K-Tape and R-Tape are interesting in that they are possible ergogenic aids, claiming increased endurance, strength, power and reaction time. R-Tape should be particularly interesting for you, with it's increased stretch, tensile recovery and stronger adhesive.
If you are a rehab or post-rehab patient, the tapes should interest you because they can possiby increase blood-flow (for healing) as well as stimulating muscles that may be weak from disuse or nerve inhib ition.
If, as I am, you are a fitness professional in either of these fields, you should definitely be interested!
Are Kinesio Tape and RockTape Competitors?
That would be - affirmative.
Quoted directly from the homepage of the Kinesio Tape website: "Be advised that an ever growing number of impostors and imita tion brands are popping up around the world. Remember that Kinesio® Tex Tape is the world's original and most trusted elastic therapeutic tape."
Kinesio Tape is the incumbant and are doing all they can to market themselves as such and to protect their market share.
RockTape is a newcomer to the game and are trying to distinguish themselves by focusing less on therapy and more on performance. However, most benefits claimed by the two companies are very similar.
Is it legal in competition?
As far as I know, there is no ban on the use of elastic tapes such as the Kinesio and Rock Tapes. Personally, I am not sure where I stand on the morality of using these tapes for competition since they have the capacity to be used as very light mechanical exo-skeletons, where the spring in the tape itself is used to aid muscle function. While the mechanical aid is very slight, many athletic endeavors utilize thousands and thousands of repetitions and are won by very small margins.
I have absolutely no compunctions in using the tape for rehabilitation, training and non-competitive activities.
Only time will tell whether or not these tapes will be banned from future competitive athletic events - though I would hazard a guess and say that it is unlikely to happen.
Show me the
money proof research!
Despite the implication by the Kinesio Tape website that their product is proven and long-standing, the fact remains that K-Tape is a relatively new product and technique. Research as to its efficacy lack s depth and lacks breadth - and is thus inconclusive. It is interesting that their techniques and certifications are so vehemently protected and yet do not seem to be 100% borne out by research.
I should clarify in that K-Tape itself (the tape) has been shown to provide some short term muscular activation (increased electrical activity and some strength). The techniques (of which there are many, presented in 3 certification courses), themselves are relatively unproven in publicly-available, double-blind, sham-based studies.
RockTape is so new that, as far as I know, there have been no formal studies on it. In fact, R-Tape techniques and protocols are still being developed and are, as-yet, unpublished. Because of this, any t alk of the proven efficacy of R-Tape is premature. However, if we consider R-Tape as a specialized subset of elasticized athletic tape (like K-Tape), we might (for now) extrapolate the research done on Kines io Tape to include RockTape.
There is some research to bear out the claim that Kinesio Tape can, for the short term, increase muscular stimulation, possibly leading to short-term gains in endurance/strength/power (Slupik, Dwornik, Bia loszewski & Zych, 20087). Slupik et al. taped 27 healthy subjects to support the VMO or medial head of the quadriceps. They used transdermal EMG to measure the electrical activity in the muscle. This study generally showed an increase in muscle-nerve stimulation that last for 24-72 hours with a gradual decline. A return to baseline electrical act ivity was observed by day 4. It is important to note that for healthy individuals, increased electrical activity does not necessarily lead to increased muscular function.
On the other side, a 2008 preliminary study at Chang Gung University in Taiwan, focused on the application of K-Tape to 14 apparently healthy young athletes (Fu et al. 20086). As far as I know, this is the first publish ed example of using K-Tape on healthy athletes. This was a preliminary study and one should note the small sample size, so we can't rush to conclusions based on this research. The tape was applied to the anterior thigh and measurements were for quadriceps and hamstring power. The use of a dynanometer made this study a more direct measurement of the functional power output of the muscles than the above experiments by Slupik et al. The study showed no appreciable change in power between taped and non-taped subjects.
There are several more researchers who have studied and continue to study the use of Kinesio Tape as part of a rehabilitation protocol for various injuries. The shoulder, in particular is popular amongst these studies. In a future followup article, I will incorporate another review of these studies. For now, it is sufficient to say that the use of K-Tape in rehabilitation is shown to have moderate, but gene rally postive outcomes.
From an athletic, ergogenic perspective, potentially the most exciting use of the tape is for endurance and power-endurance endeavors. Regardless of the mechanical or stimulatory effects of these tapes, the potential ability of the tape to increase blood flow to and from the muscles is understandably very important for these athletes. While many positive anecdotes have been published and the use of the tapes in high-end and professional competition is increasing, as far as I know, there are no currently published articles that study the use of these elastic tapes for endurance athletes.
What do you think?
Two of my main sports involve endurance and power-endurance. These sports are Mountain Biking and Rock Climbing. Anecdotally, I have experienced increased performance in both of these sports while using these elastic athletic tapes. Because my use of the tape involves only personal and client experience, it does not rule out the placebo effect. However, I believe that the ergogenic aid is mostly due to increased blood flow.
My rock-climbing in particular seemed to be aided. In one experiment, I taped only one arm and climbed (bouldered) personally hard grades without significant warmup. Generally, this produces what is know n as a "flash-pump" in the forearms and has the potential to completely degrade the rest of that days training. The flash-pump happens because of the rapid swelling of the muscle belly, trapping the blood vessels between muscle fibers, fascia and bone. This leads to decreased oxygenation of the muscle and increased trapped deposits of lactic acid and other toxins. This, in turn, leads to a cascade failure, where because of the toxins and lack of oxygen, the muscle continues to swell, trapping more toxins, and so on.
After climbing to near failure, the taped arm felt less "pumped" in comparison to the untaped one. Indeed, I felt that had I taped both sides, I would be able to continue climbing.
I will continue to use RockTape for myself and my clients for it's capacity to increase bloodflow and decrease edema in endurance/power-endurance athletes. I am also currently developing new techniques in using the tape in guiding myfascia and supporting proper functional posture amongst certain clients. While these techniques may not be entirely novel, they are not available in the currently published proto cols by Kinesio Tape. We are seeing generally positive outcomes with this use of the tape.
Because these products and techniques are in their infancy, one cannot draw any definitive conclusions as to their efficacy.
However, at this time, it is my belief that, while as-yet unproven, the use of Kiniseo Tape and RockTape has much untapped potential. I personally continue to use and support their use for post-rehab, fun ctional, postural and athletic activities.
1. RockTape - http://rocktape.com
2. Kinesio Tape - http://kinesiotaping.com, http://kinesiotape.ca
6. Fu TC, Wong AM, Pei YC, Wu KP, Chou SW, Lin YC. (2008). Effect of Kinesio taping on muscle strength in athletes-a pilot study. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports / Sports Medicin e Australia. As Retrieved from: [link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.go v/pubmed/...]
7. S?upik A, Dwornik M, Bia?oszewski D, Zych E. (2008). Effect of Kinesio Taping on bioelectrical activity of vastus medialis muscle. Preliminary report. Ortopedia, Traumatologia, Rehabilitacja. As retrieved from: [link: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/...]
September 1st, 2009: The guys at KT-Tape, another elastic tape company, just contacted me in regards to this post. I'll try to obtain some of their product to compare and review! Their website is availa ble here: http://www.kttape.com/default.asp