May 23, 2017Taped Up
At the University of Memphis, every spring football practice or scrimmage starts the same for the athletic trainers. All 94 members of the Tigers’ squad are required to have their ankles braced or taped, so that means taping, taping, and more taping.
“If a guy rolls his ankle out at practice or gets hurt, Coach [Mike Norvell] wants to know: Was he taped up? Was he good?” Darrell Turner, MEd, LAT, ATC, Assistant Athletic Director for Sports Medicine at Memphis, told The Commercial Appeal (Tenn.). “He wants to make sure the player did his part to try to stay healthy.”
The process to get all the players taped takes about 90 minutes before each practice or scrimmage. Although ankles are taped the most frequently, knees, feet, wrists, fingers, and toes are among other tape jobs.
“It’s crazy,” said Turner. “People don’t even realize how much goes into it.”
On average, the football program used 226 rolls of tape before each spring practice. That added up to more than 2,400 yards — more than 24 football fields. Overall, spring ball ate up 3,171 rolls of tape, or 34,149 yards, with a cost exceeding $4,000.
“We try to buy tape that has research behind it, that resists moisture, that holds its tension longer,” said Turner. “If you’re going to spend all this money, you’re going to want to put the best tape that holds as tight as long as it possibly can in hopes of preventing injury.”
The Tigers use four different colors of tape and nine varieties. The different colors come into play for games, when Turner and his staff try to match the team’s uniforms. They also make sure to tape both sides equally. For instance, if an injured left ankle is taped over the shoe on game day, the right ankle will be taped the same way.
“I don’t want [an opposing player at] the bottom of a pile grabbing the only one that’s taped, giving it a nice little twist or yank,” said Turner.
Along with keeping an eye out for competitive situations, Turner and the athletic training staff get to know each player’s preferences.
“They’re finicky, too,” he said. “You can say they’re superstitious, you can say they’re creatures of habit, whatever they may be.”
For example, some players prefer a specific type of tape or amount of pressure.
“Darrell knows how to tape my ankles,” said Doroland Dorceus, senior running back for the Tigers. “Not too tight, because I’ve got sensitive feet. He’s been taping me for three years now, so he knows how I like it.”
Although a lot goes into taping — both time and resources — the main goal is to prevent injuries. And based on athlete feedback, that goal is being achieved.
“I’ve heard a number of times where guys got in a bad position, they feel [the ankle] pull, but then they keep on going because they feel the tape kind of catch,” said Kyle Bowles, LAT, ATC, a Graduate Assistant Athletic Trainer for the Tigers. “Whereas if they didn’t have the tape, they’re done. Sprained ankle.”