Sports Medicine Research: In the Lab & In the Field: Tape (or Wait) for Stabilizers to Activate (Sports Med Res)
Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Tape (or Wait) for Stabilizers to Activate

Effects of Scapular Taping on the Activity Onset of Scapular Muscles and the Scapular Kinematics in Volleyball Players with Rotator Cuff Tendinopahy

Leong HT, Ng GY, & Fu SN.  J Sci Med Sport. 2016; Accepted for publication October 21, 2016. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2016.10.013

Take Home Message: Shoulder taping is associated with early activation of scapular muscles; however, this only resulted in a minimal effect on shoulder kinematics. 

Repetitive overhead shoulder activity associated with volleyball can negatively impact shoulder and scapular motion and ultimately cause chronic shoulder pain such as rotator cuff tendinopathy.  Prevention and management of rotator cuff tendinopathy include rehabilitation and taping techniques.  Within the sport of volleyball, there has been a surge in the increasing number of athletes who have utilized taping to try to help prevent or manage chronic shoulder pain.  The authors of this study evaluated the motion (via 3-dimensional analysis) and muscle activity (via electromyography) of 26 male volleyball players suffering with a rotator cuff tendinopathy in 3 taping conditions: no tape, placebo tape, and tape with tension, which were performed in random order.  The authors evaluated the changes in 3 scapular angles (upward/downward rotation, anterior/posterior tilt, and internal/external rotation) to determine the taping effects on the dynamic control of the scapula during should abduction (0° to 30°, 30° to 60° and 60° to 90°). The authors found that there was earlier activity onset of the lower trapezius, middle trapezius, and serratus anterior muscles with either of the tape conditions (placebo or tape with tension).  While there was earlier muscle activity, there was only a minimal effect on scapular upward rotation. No other significant difference between taping conditions were found.

These findings are interesting because it demonstrates that tape applied can enhance muscle activation of scapular muscles.  The authors reported that taping with placebo tape (no tension) or with tension (therapeutic) resulted in similar earlier onset of muscle activation in comparison to no tape.  Though, the authors could not explain why this happens, it still could have implications for long-term use to relieve chronic shoulder pain associated with rotator cuff tendinopathy in volleyball athletes.  It would be interesting to see how pain and other kinematic measures might be affected if athletes participated in multiple volleyball practices or rehabilitation sessions while taped.  The authors stated that there was a small change in scapular upward rotation; however, it was not clinically meaningful. It would be interesting to see if there is a cumulative effect to this minimal change that might make a clinically impactful difference.  It would also be interesting to track patient reported outcomes in addition to muscle activity and shoulder kinematics.  Further research is definitely needed in this area.  However, it appears that shoulder taping is definitely an option to encourage better scapular stabilizing control during early movements. 

Questions for Discussion:  Do you use any shoulder taping techniques with overhead athletes?  Are there any other preventative measures that you have found to be successful with overhead athletes?

Written by: Nicole Cattano
Reviewed by: Jane McDevitt

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Leong, H., Ng, G., & Fu, S. (2016). Effects of scapular taping on the activity onset of scapular muscles and the scapular kinematics in volleyball players with rotator cuff tendinopathy Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport DOI: 10.1016/j.jsams.2016.10.013

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