Waterproof Tape for Swimming

Young woman, swimming on back,  wearing goggles and flippers, in swimming pool,  portrait

If you’re a swimmer, you probably don’t relish the thought of staying out of the pool while a sprained shoulder heals. Sports tape is commonly used to treat strains, sprains and other injuries while allowing athletes to continue to train and perform. Fortunately for swimmers, some waterproof options can help get you back in the water and keep injuries from interfering with your butterfly stroke.

Kinesiology Tape

Kinesiology tape -- also known as kinesio tape -- is a highly flexible waterproof tape originally developed in Japan. Kinesio tape is cloth-based tape with pressure grooves and elasticity that are both purported to have therapeutic benefits. Although it’s been around since the early 1970s, this tape didn’t reach the U.S. until 1995. Kinesio tape is designed to be a corrective tape that, depending on how it’s applied, provides muscle support, improves lymph function, repairs muscle damage and reduces muscle and joint pain, among other uses.

Wet Proof Tape

Wet proof tape is a more traditional support tape sometimes used by swimmers to support strains and sprains during a workout, especially in the knee and shoulder. In addition to being waterproof and washable, this tape also holds up well to excessive sweating. It’s also known for being gentle on the skin, making it a good choice for people with sensitive skin or skin allergies.

Effectiveness and Evidence

Regardless of which tape you use, it will only be effective if it’s applied correctly, preferably by an experienced trainer or trained clinician. Kinesio tape has as many possible applications as it does uses, and the manufacturer offers training courses in proper application techniques. However, team physician for the U.S. Tennis Association Dr. Jennifer Solomon noted on ABC News that there is no scientific evidence to support the claims behind kinesio tape’s effectiveness. However, it is possible that the tape has a placebo effect that increases the athlete’s confidence and helps him perform better, Dr. Dennis Cardone, assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center, told ABC News.

Use in Swimming Competitions

Whether the benefits of kinesio tape are real or imagined, neither it nor any other type of wet proof or sports tape is allowed to be used in swimming competitions except under special circumstances. According to the official rules and regulations of the governing body for competitive swimming in the U.S., USA Swimming, no tape is allowed on the body during swim races unless approved by a referee for valid medical reasons, and it is not allowed at all for any reason if it provides any type of competitive advantage.