Wrapping and Taping Techniques

Wrapping and taping are terms that are often used interchangeably in the consideration of athletic training and sports injury rehabilitation, though each has a distinct meaning.

Wrapping is the procedure used both in administration of first aid to an injury, as well as ongoing treatment. Wrapping is the compression aspect of the RICE (rest/ice/compression/elevation) treatment commonly administered in the event of a soft tissue injury. RICE treatment is designed to immediately limit the consequences of injuries such as an ankle sprain, a strained hamstring, or groin pull, or a shoulder joint injury. Any strain, sprain, or suspected tear or tissue rupture should be treated with the RICE technique.

Wrapping a soft tissue injury is often done in conjunction with the application of ice. The wrap is applied to permit the ice bag or cold pack to be properly positioned on the surface of the injury, and also provide the desired compression to the surface. Compression, when properly administered, will be tight without restricting blood flow. The compression is used in combination with the application of ice to prevent the joint from swelling, a natural process that tends to lengthen recovery.

While any material could be used as a wrap in an emergency, first aid wraps are typically made of an elastic substance, to permit the wrap to be stretched over the injured joint and any ice being applied. The technique used to apply the wrap will depend on the location of the injury; the wrap must be applied in a fashion that ensures compression, but permits some degree of movement.

Taping is generally a preventative measure taken to protect an athlete from further injury to a previously damaged joint or tissue. Taping is a temporary device, where the applied material functions in the same fashion as an orthotic, providing support and a

Boxer wrapping his wrist with athletic tape.
measure of protection to the desired area. Tape is generally applied in two stages; the first is an underlay of a thin, porous, and foam-like material, often referred to as pre-wrap. The tape, an adhesive, is then applied over the pre-wrap in thin strips. There are a multitude of taping methods, each individually designed to suit a specific athletic need. As a general proposition, the primary goal of athletic taping is to provide additional support for the specific joint, while not unduly hindering the degree of movement. Taping seeks to achieve the same physical result as a brace. Due to the combined effects of movement and perspiration, the athletic tape will not maintain its degree of rigidity for extended periods; it is not uncommon to see an athlete being re-taped at a break in play to ensure that the joint is still well supported.

SEE ALSO Ankle sprains; First aid kits for sports; Hamstring injuries; Knee injuries; Orthotics; RICE (rest/ice/compression/elevation) treatment for injuries; Sprains and strains.