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Why Do Football Players Wear Tape on Their Arms?

Players put either athletic or kinesiology tape on their arms to provide additional protection, improve performance, and prevent further injury. Kinesiology tape pulls the skin slightly away from the tissues and improves circulation and minimizes joint irritation while athletic tape can provide additional support to a joint like the wrists and elbows.

I never wore tape unless I had to during my playing career. But I don’t recall kinesiology tape being available during that time, and the potential benefits could have done wonders for my chronically bad knees. 

In this article, we’ll examine why some professionals like Alvin Kamara deck themselves out in tape and the potential benefits of this practice. And now, he doesn’t just do it because it looks super cool.

Key Takeaways

  • Players may use athletic tape or kinesiology tape on their arms to provide additional support to an injury or improve performance.
  • Kinesiology tape lifts the skin away from the tissue, improving circulation and minimizing the risk of joint irritation.
  • It may block or modify pain receptors, however, which can increase the chance of an injury going undiagnosed

General Protection

In recent years, many players have started to wear long pieces of tape that run from their wrists and up their arms, elbows, and triceps. Let’s look at Saints’ running back Alvin Kamara as an example. [1]

Kamara is using something called kinesiology tape to protect his arms. First used in the 1970s, this tape provides support without limiting a player’s movement. This tape is a blend of cotton and nylon which allows it to have similar flexibility and properties as skin. It’s water resistant and can stay on for several days unless intentionally removed.

Along with preventing turf burns when a player is tackled and slides across the artificial surface or grass, this tape also slightly lifts the skin away from the body’s tissues. This gives them a little more room to breathe and move, reducing the chance of joint irritation. [2]


While it minimizes joint irritation, it can also increase circulation and could improve a player’s physical performance and stamina too. Some concerns have arisen, however. The biggest is that stretching the skin and increasing the room for tissues and joints can change how the brain perceives pain. 

It may improve performance, but combined with the adrenaline of a competitive game, a player’s pain receptors may be dulled. While this may be beneficial at the moment, it can cause a minor injury to go unnoticed, increasing the risk of it turning into a major one if not identified early. [3]

Prevent Further Injury

A player may also wear tape if he’s been previously injured and wants to prevent it from getting worse. Injuries such as a sprained wrist or hyperextended elbow need additional support to avoid reaggravating it and causing the player to miss extra time.

Wrapping the afflicted area with either kinesiology or athletic tape helps support the joint and reduces the risk of exacerbating the injury and minimizing pain if it’s hit again. You’ll also see this commonly done with a player’s ankles or knees, and some players choose to wrap their wrists even if they don’t have a previous injury as a preventative measure. 

To provide proper support to injured joints, trainers will wrap athletic tape in a long continuous strand. This provides additional sheathing and strength instead of several shorter strips bound together. Trainers must apply the tape in a manner where it’s tight enough to provide adequate support, but not so tight that it minimizes movement or cuts off circulation.


When you consider the potential benefits of taping up your arms, it’s hard to imagine why a player wouldn’t. Perhaps some just find it cumbersome or believe that it’s not worth the trouble. But if it helps you run and evade tackles like Kamara, I’d be willing to try whatever is working for him.

Have you ever taped up your arms before a game? Did you notice a difference? Let us know in the comments below.



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