Taping Your Wrists for Football: Why and How

Sports Taping

Why Do Footballers Tape Their Wrists?

Sports tape is commonly used across multiple sports and is an essential item in most Football First Aid Kits. You’ll have seen many different sports professionals wearing sports tape for various reasons. Football players often use sports tape; this article will answer the question—why do footballers wear tape on their wrists?

Football is a high energy contact sport. Throughout a match, players are fighting for ball position and regularly come into contact with their opponents. This increases the risk of injury or damage to players’ joints. Wrists and fingers especially can be strained or bent in the wrong direction during a game or training session.

So, why do footballers tape their wrists? Correct application of sports tape is a common way to prevent football injuries, especially strains on players’ wrists.

Goalies will almost always be seen with Zinc-Oxide sports tape protecting their fingers and wrists, even under their gloves. Sports tape is highly effective in supporting digits and joints from bending out of place and becoming injured when strained while playing football.

Sports tape also supports other football players’ wrists in case of sudden contact, either with the ball, another player or the ground. When falling, your first reaction is to brace your fall with your hand. Sports tape, when used correctly, supports and protects wrists from bending too far and sustaining an injury by limiting movement. Sports tape is used to treat common football injuries as they occur throughout a game.

Correct and safe strapping of joints using sports tape offers many benefits, including:

  • Preventing wrist injuries during training and matches.
  • Providing protection and aiding in the healing of wrist injuries.
  • Reducing the likelihood of injury aggravation.
  • Allowing for an earlier return to sport following injury.

Sometimes players also wear sports tape to cover tattoos or protect loose jewellery such as chain bracelets or finger rings. However, the FA prohibits wearing any dangerous items for professional games, so wearing tape to cover up jewellery is not permitted.

Some players even use sports tape to keep their socks up!

Sports Wrist Tape

How to Tape a Wrist for Football

Wherever possible, a medically trained sports professional must apply sports tape, especially where the taping is primarily intended to protect an existing injury. Qualified first aiders or coaches with first aid training should always be on hand in case of an emergency during any football match or training session. In addition to this, knowing how to tape a wrist for football is critical in achieving the protective benefits that sports tape can offer.

Sterosport offers online courses for Sports Taping and Kinesiology Taping techniques to support physios and sports professionals to safely and effectively tape joints for sport. The courses are available through our unique Sterosport teachable platform so that you can enhance your skills with ease.

Before applying any sports tape, you must always consider:

  • Assessment of the player’s area of the body that might need taping.
  • Be sure of your reasons for taping—is this a protective or preventative measure?
  • Discern what range of motion is required and if any movement needs to be restricted, such as a wrist or finger requiring protection from bending too far back.
  • Be sure that using tape is the correct measure to take regarding this injury or area of the body that needs protection—for example, the ankle or shoulder might require Kinesiology tape, whereas using zinc oxide tape is usually the appropriate product for footballers’ wrist protection.
  • Your decision of where, what, and how to apply tape to an area of a player’s body will be unique to every situation. Use your anatomical knowledge and feedback from the player themself as to what is comfortable and realistic for their body’s needs.

Follow these steps to tape a football player’s wrist. Always make sure you carefully assess the taping requirements for the player before proceeding.

1. Ask the player to hold their hand towards you with their fingers spread wide. Apply a small amount of pressure to the end of the extended fingers to keep the muscles tense. This will aid the effectiveness of the strapping.

2. Apply a few strips of tape to support the wrist and base of the hand while the muscles are tensed. This will form an anchor point around the base of the hand and serves as a fixation point for additional tape. Make sure you apply it gently to prevent circulatory problems.

3. Take a fresh strip of tape, secure it to the anchor around the wrist leading from the wrist’s outer edge, and pull the tape inwards towards the space between the thumb and forefinger. Avoid applying much pressure here to ensure the hand muscles aren’t straining unnaturally. Once adhered between the thumb and forefinger, gently pull the tape back down to secure around the wrist anchor.

4. Take time to decide what range of motion the tape is intended to restrict:

    • If the intention is to prevent the hand from flexing too far backwards, the next stage of taping would be to apply it along the palm and secure it to the wrist anchor. This will restrict how far back the hand and wrist can flex.
    • If you need to restrict how far the hand can flex forward into a firm grip or clenched fingers, the tape needs to be applied to the back of the hand and secured to the wrist anchor.
    • The same would be true for reducing flexing of the wrist either to the left or right side in the player’s range of motion. The tape will need to be applied to the opposite side and secured in place to prevent the wrist and hand from flexing too far in whatever direction is deemed risky regarding a possible injury.

5. After the anchor is secured around the wrist and thumb, you will need to create supporting fans using shorter layers of tape placed in alternating directions to ensure the range of movement is inhibited for more than a singular angle. These fans can then be secured in place with additional tape, making sure to continue minimising the tape’s pressure around the thumb joint.

Tips and Warnings for Wrist Taping

It’s essential to know your tapes and how to tape a wrist for football safely. The most common sports tapes used in football are:

Athletic Tape (Zinc-Oxide)

Wrapped around the wrist joint to limit movement and provide stability and support, this prevents damage or further injury. It is the most straightforward solution, with no adhesive backing and limited elasticity. It is a good choice for short term protection and recovery as it is not as flexible as other tapes.

Kinesiology Tape 

A highly elastic tape with adhesive backing, Kinesio tape doesn’t restrict movement and is a good option for athletes who want to stay active. It is usually applied across a muscle for support rather than around a joint to restrict flexibility. Many different shapes and sizes are available to aid recovery from an injury.

Cohesive Bandage

Used less commonly on wrist joints but essential for protection and support of other joints. These lightweight, flexible bandages can be wrapped around sprains and strains similarly to sports tape to provide compression of muscles and help to reduce swelling.

If you aren’t sure how to tape a wrist for football or are using the wrong type of sports tape, you could be at risk of further injury to a vulnerable joint, cutting off blood flow to vital areas, and missing out on the benefits of effective sports taping. If you aren’t sure which type of sports tape you need, get in touch with us at Sterosport. If you’re a sports rehabilitator, you can also book a free consultation where we’ll provide you with a free sports tape sample pack worth £30.

It’s important to have clear information about different sports tapes to understand their features and benefits to serve your football players best; we cover this topic on our blog.

Removing Sports Tape Safely

Safe removal of sports tape, especially around a joint, is vital to ensure no further damage to the area after a football game or training session. Experts recommend using blunt-nosed tape scissors to reduce the risk of injuring a player’s skin when cutting tape.

When pulling sports tape off an area of the body, it should be removed slowly while applying gentle pressure to the skin close to where the tape is still adhered to reduce tension and the risk of pulling the joint in the wrong direction.

Generally, sports tape should be removed within 48 hours of initial application or sooner if the player complains of increased pain or irritation. Continually monitor the taped area to ensure that blood flow has not been inhibited.

When to avoid Wrist Taping

Knowing how to tape a wrist for football is as important as knowing when not to use sports tape.

Typically, strapping with sports tape is not recommended when:

  • A player has circulatory or sensory problems that may be further impacted by taping a joint.
  • A player has an allergy to sports tap.
  • A player is recovering from certain injuries, including most fractures. In this instance, consult a professional sports physiotherapist for the best protective measures.

Reducing the usage of sports tape in general activity as an injured area improves strength and range of mobility over time is important. This allows for the injured area to improve its function and heal. However, reapplying sports tape to protect the injury before a high-risk activity such as football is recommended to reduce the risk of aggravating the healing area.

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