Kinesio Taping Improves Kinesthetic Intelligence and Helps Prevent Injury
In the captivating world of sports, athletes don't merely perform; they play with gravity. When a gymnast catapults themselves into the air, knowing the precise location of each limb in relation to their surroundings and distance from the ground is akin to a maestro knowing every note in a symphony.
Every jump, leap, and dive demands energy and a continuous supply of kinesthetic snapshots from our skin, muscles, tendons, and joints for a perfect performance. In a harmonious fashion, specialized cells, known as proprioceptors, relay detailed information about how some muscles increase the rate of contraction and, simultaneously, information about the lengthening in others.
When gathered from the entire body, the information transforms into kinesthetic intelligence, creating a continuous comprehensive map of our bodily position. The precise timing of the information matters and out-of-sync messaging commonly leads to injury.
Kinesthetic Perception Facilitates Performance
Rigorous and dedicated training can lead to enhanced kinesthetic perception and could be a distinguishing feature between performance levels, as recently shown for the ankle joint (Shi et al., 2023). A recent study showed that ankle proprioception was related to table tennis players' expertise, years of training, and ball-hitting rate. The results may be comparable to other complex sports settings.
It is the combination of proprioceptive information, however, with other senses, such as vision, that gives rise to spatial awareness. Without spatial awareness, navigating from one point to another, let alone hitting a tennis ball, would be impossible.
Spatial awareness is an ability that helps us ensure we move safely through our surroundings and supports our efforts to perform and compete at our potential.
Yet, as we train and compete, our muscles eventually fatigue, and the distances of jumps, throws, and ball-hitting prowess dwindle. Like our muscles, our kinesthetic perception is subject to neuromuscular fatigue (Myers, Guskiewicz, Schneider, & Prentice, 1999), and consequentially so is our spatial awareness.
During fatiguing conditions, the harmonious fashion and integrity of the signals from proprioceptors located in our muscles, tendons, and joints decline, making us more prone to injury.
Since fatigue is inevitable as we train and compete, some athletes adopt kinesiology taping strategies to counterbalance the decline. When the tape is applied over the fatigued area of the body, additional positional information is sent to the brain helping the athlete return to their prefatigued level of positional awareness.
Kinesiology Taping Augments Proprioception After an Injury
There is a general agreement in the scientific community that predicting injury is strikingly similar to winning the lottery. A prior injury is the best predictor for a reoccurring one and his is true for many sports and many injury types. So listen to your body the best you can.
In some cases, an injury to the ligaments, tendons or joints may not fully recover, and proprioception may be impaired from that point on. With rehabilitative training, many athletes can improve their self-awareness and learn to control particular movements that previously would have placed them in an unstable or risky position.
A study exploring the applications of kinesiology taping for rehabilitative purposes revealed improved proprioception in persons with functional ankle instability compared to those without (Simon, Garcia, & Docherty, 2014). Participants performed a 30% eversion maximum voluntary isometric contraction or, more simply, mimicked the motions leading to an ankle sprain or rollover, during which researchers tested their force-generating sense.
The improved force-sensing abilities imply kinesiology taping can augment existing proprioceptive information to fill the deficit created by the initial trauma and return the athlete to their preinjury positional awareness.
Augmenting Information from the Skin
Some athletes apply kinesiology tape to the skin over the musculature responsible for ankle, knee and shoulder stability. The mechanoreceptors in the skin provide an original and independent source of information about stretch on and around a joint, which the application of kinesiology tape can enhance.
Another benefit is taping can help maintain mental awareness of the injured limb and support rehabilitation training to help limit or avoid high-risk movements.
The notion of being physically augmented may evoke scenes from the Terminator, albeit in a more subtle and fashionable attire. But augmenting our spatial awareness resonates deeply with our history. A cane, for example, provides extra information to guide those who are visually impaired.
Regardless, taping up to stay fit and healthy rather than hanging out on the sidelines is one way to enhance kinesthetic intelligence. Indeed, it makes a lot of sense.
- Hung, M., Chen, H., Chang, Y., Chiu, C., & Chang, H. (2023). Effects of the direction of kinesio taping on sensation and postural control before and after muscle fatigue in healthy athletes. Scientific Reports, 13(1), 1-9. doi:10.1038/s41598-023-27801-2
- Myers, J. B., Guskiewicz, K. M., Schneider, R. A., & Prentice, W. E. (1999). Proprioception and neuromuscular control of the shoulder after muscle fatigue. Journal of Athletic Training, 34(4), 362-367. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1323348/
- Simon, J., Garcia, W., & Docherty, C. L. (2014). The effect of kinesio tape on force sense in people with functional ankle instability. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 24(4), 289. doi:10.1097/JSM.0000000000000030