When to Use K-Tape vs a Knee Guard in Soccer
Jan 15, 2024
You’ve probably noticed a handful of your favorite soccer stars wearing what looks like duct tape on their bodies. Everyone from Gareth Bale and Olivier Giroud to Lindsey Horan and Sophia Smith have worn it—Kinesio tape it’s called, or K-tape for short. Soccer players wear it to relieve pain, as well as to support their muscles, tendons and ligaments. Although K-tape has its limitations, there is some science to support its effectiveness.
And then you have knee guards and braces, which offer similar benefits but are rarely seen the pitch. Why? In this post, we’ll take a look at both of these pain and injury management tools, why they’re so popular (or not, in the case of knee braces), and when to use them.
The Science & Popularity of KT
The makers of Kinesio tape say their product offers a few key benefits. Firstly, they say it gently lifts the skin from the tissues beneath it, creating space which reduces pressure on the nerves to decrease pain. Secondly, it stabilizes the joints, which is probably why lots of players wear it on their knees. Thirdly, it apparently increases circulation, which speeds up tissue healing. Lastly, it gives you proprioceptive feedback, which means you can better sense your body’s position in space to reduce injury-risk.
Here’s what researchers have confirmed:
- KT does appearto increase oxygen flow to the muscles, which quickens healing and repair.
- Low-tension taping appears to offer more pain-relief to players compared to those who don’t use it or rely on high-tension taping.
With that said, researchers have not been able to find sufficient evidence of other claims such as:
- Increased strength, neuromuscular activity or overall athletic performance.
- Significant pain or injury prevention capability.
When to Use KT: With research considered above, you can use K-tape when you’re dealing with mild pains and aches, or have recovered from an injury to the point you no longer need rehabilitation or therapy.
When Not to Use KT: Ditch the K-tape, if you’re actively recovering from an injury that requires knee stability, physiotherapy and conditioning.
As for its popularity, we can assume that KT is popular because it may feel less cumbersome than a brace. Also, there maybe aperception that a knee guard is only something you wear if you’re seriously injured.
So if a player has an injury they can play through, they might just reach for Kinesio tape instead—which makes sense. Let’s not forget also that soccer has an air of style and flair to it—K-tape maylook cooler to players than a knee guard. Who knows?
The Science & Unpopularity of Knee Guards
Knee guards might be the unsexy alternative to K-tape in that they do just one thing—they keep your knee joint stable while you recover from an injury. They ensure that the kneecap moves smoothly over the joint so you feel less pain and discomfort. From a psychological standpoint, they make you feel more confident playing since your knee will feel stabilized (and less prone to re-injury).
Research has said the following about knee bracing:
- They can protect the knee during movements that involve higher flexion and frontal loading of the joint (think acceleration/deceleration while running).
- They have been found to provide some stability to an ACL deficient knee that’s subjected to heavy loads.
Of course, knee guards aren’t perfect, and researchers have found some limits, namely:
- They provide insufficient protection for the knees during high speed or rotational movements (i.e., sprinting, foot pivoting).
When to Use Knee Guards: When you’ve sustained and are recovering from an injury such as an ACL, MCL or another “tear” that requires knee stability.
When Not to Use Knee Guards: If you’re experiencing minor aches from exertion, dives or tackles—K-tape can provide relief for these issues without the added bulk of a brace.
Now why aren’t knee braces as popular as K-tape? The main reason is knee guards tend to feel bulky and restrictive, which you don’t want when playing. Of course, the design of these guards influence how they feel as well (more on this below).
Also, wearing a visible knee brace or guard basically tells opponents that you’re hurt, and they could exploit that (usually at the elite or professional levels). It doesn’t mean they’ll go directly for the knees, but they could tackle you knowing it’s going to throw you off.
Knee Guards that Don’t Look or Feel Like “Braces”
Now we just mentioned that knee guard design influences how they feel and look. Traditional knee braces can be somewhat uncomfortable to wear, so athletes only wear them if they absolutely have to. But if the knee guard is lightweight, unrestrictive and sleek, then they might feel more comfortable wearing one.
That’s where our BodyShield Knee Guards come in. We designed them to look and feel light, light as your socks and to feel like a second skin, bending as you move so they don’t feel restrictive. They’re not your run-of-the-mill rigid medical knee brace.
On top of that, they contain 10mm of patented XRD® Extreme Impact Protection, padding that reduces up to 90% of impact forces. This padding protects your knees from blunt trauma that can injure or re-injure you. They also have anti-abrasion materials so that you don’t get turf burn from sliding.
They’re visible, yes- but they fit like socks, so they don’t feel heavy on your legs or look bulky.
Summarizing the Verdict
Choosing between K-tape and knee guards boils down to whether you’re actually injured or not. If you want to reduce soreness or have recovered from an injury enough that you don’t need therapy, you can probably wear the tape. But if you’re still nursing a knee or leg injury, get yourself the guards.
Our BodyShield Knee Guards don’t look bulky, and can blend in with the rest of your kit. Besides, if you’re still recovering from an injury, you’re probably not playing much anyway, so how you look shouldn’t matter as much as your recovery. When recovery is your focus, you should only use what works best for that injury.
Looking to protect your knees and legs from new or existing injuries? Check out our BodyShield Knee Guards to get the protection you need!