You may have noticed something different about James Harden during this past NBA season. No, it wasn’t his playing ability – he continued cooking opponents to the tune of 27 points, 7 assists and 6 boards nightly – but you certainly would have spotted the black tape on his right shoulder. In this day and age where season-ending injuries are becoming a much more common occurrence, NBA players are looking for any edge they can get to keep them healthy, and playing at elite level.
For a contending team like the Houston Rockets, Harden’s health is critical. Athletes are now looking beyond traditional measures to ensure their bodies perform the way they are supposed to, and Harden is one of the new-age ballers embracing the use of KT (kinesiology therapeutic) Tape on his right shoulder – even though that shoulder isn’t injured. The tape provides support and pain relief by interacting naturally with the body’s neuromuscular systems, and is seen as a preventative measure against injury to the area where it is applied.
“I’ve been a big fan of kinesiology therapeutic tape ever since I was introduced to it years ago as it’s helped me stay competitive throughout the long NBA season when my body endures a lot of physical strains,” said Harden about his preventative measures.
“Recently I was turned onto KT Tape and I could instantly feel the difference in quality on my body. By wearing [it] on injury prone areas, I feel like it decreases the chance of injury, and it also helps accelerate my healing while still allowing me to play my game without limitation.”
Harden has the backing of the Rockets’ Head Athletic trainer Jason Biles who, along with the rest of his staff, is a big proponent of the tape’s effects.
“Our staff consists of athletic trainers, physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, strength and conditioning specialists and general and orthopedic physicians,” says Biles. “We share all share a diverse educational background with various experience but we all believe the kinesiology tape is another tool for our toolbox. It is valuable in many cases including muscle activation, pain and edema reduction, proprioception enhancement and encouraging optimal movement patterns.”
Scientific results on whether alternative methods such as the KT Tape work are yet to be confirmed, but Biles insists that it does, and that it has more benefits than just injury prevention.
“There are studies that show kinesiology tape decreases pain and improves motion following injury,” says Biles on the subject. “We are still waiting on high level studies in specific populations, like professional basketball players. However, we can also not discount the mental component of kinesiology tape application. Many athletes believe the tape helps them with injury prevention and maximizing performance. This is important because it allows them to play freely and confidently.
Watch Harden barrel towards the rim each game, absorbing contact ( he gets to the line 10 times a game in 36 minutes) and you can see why he, and other NBA players, are looking for new ways to help preserve their bodies, not only for the grueling regular season, but for deep playoff runs as well. Biles says that more players are looking into alternative methods such as the tape much more these days.
“I believe players are more open to trying alternative methods like kinesiology taping to gain a competitive advantage and feel confident when on the court,” he states. “Once they understand the benefits then they can try it and experience it for themselves. Also, many players don’t like to feel restricted by taping or bracing. Kinesiology tape allows one to move more naturally while providing the benefits of muscle activation and improved postural awareness.”
Although he only started wearing the tape at the beginning of this season, expect Harden to continue wearing it when next season tips off, also.
“Whenever I’m sore, whether it’s my knee or my shoulder, putting [it] on gets the blood flowing and circulating around my body,” Harden said. “I’m able to go out there and play free, not really thinking about injuries.
“It just gives me that confidence. It gives me confidence to go out there and not worry about getting injured. If you’re playing free and you’re confident, great things are going to happen on the court.”