When it comes to staying warm in harsh weather conditions, Olympic skiers have undoubtedly acquired all the techniques of the trade. If you’ve been watching the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, you may have noticed one such strategy. Amid an intense winter chill, some of the athletes have been wearing a peculiar accessory on their faces to protect against strong winds and severe temperatures. They’ve been utilizing kinesiology tape — commonly known as KT Tape — an elastic sports tape traditionally used to assist in the support of muscles and joints.
Given the extremely frigid temperatures — coupled with occasional 40 mph wind gusts, which caused the delay of Alpine events — it’s understandable that they would try anything to prevent frostbite and/or windburn. However, KT Tape was not specifically designed for use on delicate facial skin, so you may wonder if applying it to your face could have negative consequences. Continue reading to find out more about this Olympic trend and whether or not you should try it yourself when hitting the slopes this winter.
How does KT Tape function?
First and foremost, let’s provide a brief explanation of what KT Tape is. This improved version of the classic white athletic tape “assists in the active recovery of injuries and common pains by diminishing the perception of pain and enhancing the equilibrium of tissue tension across muscles and joints,” biomechanics expert Ted Forcum, D.C., DACBSP, F.I.C.C., C.S.C.S., previously stated to Shape.
Kinesiology tape offers support without restricting your range of motion in the same way that rigid, traditional athletic tape does. This is crucial because limiting your range of motion can lead to muscle imbalances and decreased blood circulation. KT Tape also lifts the skin slightly, relieving pressure on swollen or injured muscles and enabling fluid to move more freely beneath the skin and reach the lymph nodes, as Ralph Reiff, head of the Athlete Recovery Center for Team USA during the 2016 Rio Olympics, previously explained to Shape. It is also a user-friendly and cost-effective solution (at approximately $11 for 20 strips) that is both water-resistant and sweat-proof.
As for whether or not kinesiology tape truly works, a 2010 review published in the New Zealand Journal of Physiotherapy concluded that research has yet to provide substantial evidence supporting the use of kinesiology tape for the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions.
However, it has been a lively addition to the domain of physiotherapy with anecdotal reinforcement substantiating its advantages.
Is it secure and efficient to utilize KT Tape on the countenance?
When Olympic skiers began exhibiting their distinct technique to repel winter weather conditions, Greg Venner, CEO and president of KT Tape, told TODAY that he has observed it employed “as safeguard against the gust in winter sports across the years, so even though it is not a clinically accepted practice, we value the resourcefulness.” Expanding on this, he added, “KT Tape does not endorse using kinesiology tape on the countenance since it is not clinically evaluated, and the adhesive that functions effectively to keep tape in place to provide enduring muscle and joint backing can be somewhat more challenging to eliminate from the sensitive skin on the countenance.”
While application on your countenance is an “off-label use” of the product, “it’s safe from a medical standpoint,” expresses New York-based sports medicine physician and orthopedic surgeon Joshua Dines, M.D.. Having said that, “It’s incredibly adhesive, so it may irritate the skin on the countenance, which is much more sensitive than other parts of the body,” he remarks.
“Using the tape might provide a tangible barrier to the skin, safeguarding against the frost and wind burn,” contributes Purvisha Patel, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare. “The drawback is the adhesive or latex on the tape, which could trigger allergic reactions in some individuals.”
Both physicians concur that it’s perfectly fine if professional skiers find it beneficial and do not encounter skin irritation, but for recreational skiers who are not racing downhill at high velocities, there are milder solutions. “If I have to put KT Tape on my countenance, it’s likely too frigid for me to be skiing,” says Dr. Dines, noting that neck gaiters offer a more comfortable barrier between your skin and extreme weather conditions. Dr. Patel agrees, recommending a traditional ski mask to circumvent irritation. Nonetheless, if you are determined to apply KT Tape on your countenance, you should ensure to administer it on a small area of skin to assess how the removal feels before applying it to larger areas, states Dr. Dines.
As for utilizing KT Tape for its intended purpose, when properly applied, it can be “extremely beneficial to stabilize muscles and joints,” states Dr. Dines, noting that he has observed patients achieve success with it post-injury. On that note, here’s how to apply KT Tape like a professional so you can obtain maximum advantages from the tool.
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