Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: Strap it or Tape it (Sports Med Res)
Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Strap it or Tape it

Effect of patellar strap and sports tape on pain in patellar tendinopathy: A randomized controlled trial

De Vries A, et al. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2015. [Epub Ahead of Print].

Take Home Message: The use of patellar strap and sports taping were both effective in decreasing pain due to patellar tendinopathy.

Patellar straps and sports tape are often used to treat patients with pain due to patellar tendinopathy. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of these treatments are unknown. Therefore, de Vries and colleagues completed a multi-center randomized controlled trial to investigate the short-term effects of a patellar strap or sports tape on patellar tendon pain during functional tests in a controlled and sports-specific environment. The authors recruited 97 participants for the current study. All participants were between 18 and 50 years of age and had pain at the patellar tendon, a duration of symptoms exceeding 3 months, a Victorian Institute of Sports Assessment Questionnaire Patella score of less than 80 out of 100 points, tenderness of the patellar tendon, and were active in sports. All participants initially completed a baseline questionnaire about personal characteristics as well as sports and injury information. Three functional tests were performed in a controlled environment. All participants performed a single leg decline squat on a platform, a vertical jump test, and a triple hop test. Following each test participants were asked to rate their pain on a visual analogue scale. The order of tests was the same for all patients and each participant rested at least one minute between tests. In this session, the participants did the tasks with a patellar strap, sports tape, placebo taping, or no tape/brace (control). The order of treatment was randomized. The authors also assessed 67 of the 99 participants over the course of 2 weeks in a sports-specific environment. During the first week of sport, no treatment was applied. During the second week 25% of participants used a patellar strap during sports, 25% used sports tape, 25% used a placebo condition, and 25% use no treatment during sport. Researchers instructed the participants to document the amount of pain during sports, 2 hours after sports, and the next morning using a visual analogue scale. Overall, in the controlled environment participants wearing the patellar strap or sports tape experienced less pain during the single-leg decline squats compared with the control condition. There were no differences between treatments after the other tasks. In the sports-specific environment, participants allocated to the sports tape, patellar strap, or placebo taping trended towards less pain during sports and just after sports participation.

Overall, the authors suggest that in the short-term a patellar strap, sports tape, or possibly even a placebo taping could be effective for pain related to patellar tendinopathy. The results of the placebo group suggest that any perceived attempt at treating patellar tendinopathy may be effective. Overall, clinicians should continue to apply these treatments until more research can be completed. It would be interesting to know if certain people respond better to one treatment than another. If a patient doesn’t respond to one treatment perhaps we should try another. Furthermore, it may be vital to know the long-term benefits or risks of decreasing a person’s patellar tendinopathy pain and then allowing them to continue to stress the tendon in sport. One important limitation of the current study is that in the sports-specific environment participants applied their own treatment. This could result in treatment not being applied correctly. For example, the placebo taping could have been applied with more pressure than the authors intended. Until such time as more research can be completed clinician should feel confident that both patellar strap and sports taping are effective at lowering pain over the short-term for patients with patellar tendinopathy.

Questions for Discussion: How effective have either patella strapping or sports taping been in your clinical practice with regards to decreasing pain due to patellar tendinopathy? If you have not used either of these treatments previously would you now consider using either of these treatments based on the current study?

Written by: Kyle Harris
Reviewed by:  Jeffrey Driban

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de Vries, A., Zwerver, J., Diercks, R., Tak, I., van Berkel, S., van Cingel, R., van der Worp, H., & van den Akker-Scheek, I. (2015). Effect of patellar strap and sports tape on pain in patellar tendinopathy: A randomized controlled trial Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports DOI: 10.1111/sms.12556

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