Medals aren't the only thing that Olympians are being decorated with. Kinesio tape seems to be the latest Olympic trend.
The colorful tape is becoming increasingly popular as is stretches across body parts of several Olympians at the 2012 London Olympics. U.S. silver medalist Trey Hardee had some black strips of the product running up his legs during the decathlon. Volleyball players like Germany's Kartin Holtwick had bright blue pieces streaking across her abs. Even divers and ping-pong players have been spotted sporting the new trend.
So what is it?
Developed in 1979 by Dr. Kenzo Kase, kineso tape is used for pain management and to aid athletic injuries. According to the product's website, it "is designed to facilitate the body's natural healing process while allowing support and stability to muscles and joints without restricting the body's range of motion." It supposedly reduces pain, boosts performance and promotes improved circulation and healing.
Kinesio is taken from the word kinesiology, or the study of human movement. Athletes wear the flexible tape made of cotton and medical adhesive because it increases circulation and clears out damage by tugging on the skin.
Dr. Kase firmly believes in the powers of his invention.
"Your pain sensors are located between the epidermis and the dermis, the first and second layers of your skin," Kase told the Guardian. "I thought that if I applied tape to the pain it would lift the epidermis slightly up and make a space between the two layers. This would in turn allow blood to flow more easily to the injured area. But you can use the tape in lots of ways, depending on the width and the amount of stretch.
The tape was first seen at the Olympics when US volleyball player Kerri Walsh wore it at the Beijing Games in 2008, according to Yahoo News. However, it is now seen on the bodies of several Olympians from different countries, playing various sports. It has even been used outside of the Olympics. David Beckham was spotted wearing it at a Real Madrid match. Cyclist Lance Armstrong praised the product in his book Every Second Counts. Tennis star Serena Williams wore it at Wimbledon.
Considering how popular kinesio tape has become among athletes, they're convinced that it does help in some way, however experts say differently. "There's no solid scientific evidence that this tape helps," Jennifer Solomon, team physician for the U.S. Tennis Association, told ABC.
"It might have some small role in the rehab process," said Dr. Dennis Cardone, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York, as quoted by ABC. "But without evidence, we can't say it's doing anything near what the company claims or what athletes using it say they feel."
Despite their being no scientific proof that it works, athletes continue to wear it. Good suspects that there must be some reason behind it. "These are not random athletes getting taped," Good told ABC. "The trainers using it at the Olympics are probably the best in their country, using it on best athletes in the world."
Experts believe that athletes may like to wear it because it has a placebo effect. They may feel like they have an edge while wearing this performance boosting, pain reducing magic tape. This alone could give them more confidence and help them to perform better during events.
"I think, if anything, there is a placebo effect involved, and there probably is a little bit of a peer pressure effect. When people see athletes who are doing so well, they think, 'Maybe this could work for me,'" Dr. Nicholas Fletcher, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at Emory University, told CNN.
As the trend grows, the tape is being sold at shops in the Olympic Village. It comes in various widths and colors and can be bought online. A roll sells for about $10 on Amazon.