Monthly Archives: March 2016


It’s time to talk about Kinesio tape. What, you may ask? Yes, you do know what it is. You’ve probably even commented on the brightly colored pieces of tape seen on professional athletes on TV, or perhaps noted that your cycling or running companion is decorated with some strange looking strips of what look like overgrown Band-Aids.

Kinesio tape is getting plenty of exposure, especially where there is exposed skin on an athletic body. Let’s learn more.

Donna Smyers knows about taping. She is not only a world-class athlete, who, if she were a boastful person, could brag of world championships in triathlon, many podium finishes at the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships, and innumerable wins locally and nationally in a variety of endurance sports. But Smyers is also a well-respected physical therapist ( Athletes come to her knowing that if there is a way for them to heal, adapt and continue in their sport, she will find it.

Recently, I met with Smyers at her clinic, appropriately named Fixer-Upper Physical Therapy, in Adamant, to discuss the now-familiar use of taping.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo Physical therapist and athlete Donna Smyers applies kinesio tape to her knee at her office in Adamant.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo Physical therapist and athlete Donna Smyers applies kinesio tape to her knee at her office in Adamant.










In 1979, a Japanese chiropractor, Dr. Kenzo Kase, made news by developing a system of taping injured bodies with what has become known as Kinesiology. Kase’s light and flexible tape adheres to the skin and is designed to support and rehabilitate.

Millions of television viewers noted the use of Kinesio tape during the Summer Olympics of 2008. Brightly colored strips of something-or-other festooned arms, legs, shoulders; exposed skin on athletes who showed plenty of skin, such as rowers, divers and the gorgeous beach volleyball women. What was this stuff?Later, we learned that Lindsey Vonn was trimmed in tape when she won the downhill skiing gold medal in the Winter Olympics of 2010. There it was again.Still later, tennis star Novak Djokovic was decorated with tape at Wimbledon. An international soccer star was yellow-carded for celebrating a goal by peeling off his jersey (and, look, his back was taped) during a World Cup event, and today there’s hardly a track and field meet or NBA or NFL event at which the now familiar blue, pink, purple and yellow stripes don’t make an appearance. From David Beckham and Serena Williams to your next-door neighbor, Kinesio tape is the new tattoo for competitive and recreational athletes and the general public too.

A BBC report noted that “Dr. Kenzo Kase says he came up with the design because he found standard taping techniques, like conventional strapping, too restrictive for his patients. Although standard strapping provides muscle and joint support, it limits movement and, according to Dr. Kase, gets in the way of the healing process by restricting the flow of inflammatory fluids below the skin. Kinesio tape is different, he says, because it lifts the skin to assist this lymphatic flow, which, in turn, reduces pain and swelling.” (

Then, too, there’s the question of placebo effect. But, if it works, so what?

There was a time when athletes and those rehabilitating from muscular or skeletal injuries wore bandages or braces to help support the injured area while it was healing. They did this in an attempt to continue with their activities throughout the process. Some theories suggested that doing so was actually disadvantageous because it caused a false reliance on the support and therefore weakened the body instead of assisting recovery.

“All research says that wearing a brace to support an ankle or knee makes it stronger, not weaker,” Smyers said. It is incorrect to suggest that reliance on a properly designed and utilized brace, taping or other support causes further weakening to a muscle, ligament, tendon or joint. “The reasoning is primarily proprioceptive,” Smyers said. “If muscles and joints feel stable, they function in a more coordinated fashion. There is a perception of stability and the body functions accordingly.”

When the body tracks well and muscles respond to the stresses placed on them in a safe and strong way, the body’s strength, coordination, agility and power are improved. Or, in Smyers’ words, “If a brace keeps things safe, you get stronger and not weaker.” Braces, taping, lace-up boots and other means of support are particularly effective with ankle and knee injuries or weaknesses. Soccer players suffer ankle sprains and skiers stress their knees. Additional support helps and does not hurt.

But here we are talking about functional bracing. “An immobilizing brace is different,” Smyers said. When we consider the use of taping, we are not replacing a brace or cast that is necessary for the healing of, say, a broken bone.

It does make one wonder how a little piece of flexible tape can be of any use. Instead of wrapping long, thick Ace bandages around an injured area, a physical therapist or athletic trainer might reach into his or her bag and pull out a small roll of tape. They might cut the tape into lengths or strips, lay the tape gently on the skin while peeling off the paper backing and adjusting the tensile strength, and then rub the tape for a minute or two. Bingo. That’s it.

“I was a little slow to believe in it,” Smyers said. “It doesn’t look like much.” About 15 years ago, Smyers did an in-service training at her then-physical therapy group. A coworker had attended a class in taping and came back to share what she had learned. “I first used Kinesio tape on clients for hematomas (bruises) because the benefits to lymph drainage were proven and visible,” Smyers said. It wasn’t until recently — about the past five years or so ­— that Smyers has started using taping to support muscles and tendons. Using herself as a test, she now tapes with confidence. “It is more proprioceptive; it tells your body what to do and sooner. It is light support but speaks to the muscles based on the tension on the skin,” she said.

What about the tension? Just coming off the roll there is about 15 percent tension, which increases slightly when removing the backing. When more tension is needed and the tape is stretched taut, it is more like traditional taping. How do you know what tension to apply? Here’s where professional help comes in. A professional can evaluate the injury, determine the most appropriate taping method and then teach you how to apply the tape.

Tape can be worn for up to a week before replacing. “For most body parts, people can learn to tape themselves,” Smyers said. (Of course reaching around to your back is awkward and requires assistance). There are books that offer excellent guidance and, Smyers added, “Don’t forget YouTube where you can find almost every taping there is.”

There is so much use of Kinesio tape that one wonders if it is being used needlessly or perhaps preventively. “There is a fine line between prevention and management,” Smyers said. “If you have a susceptibility to something, then go ahead and tape. If you’re OK, don’t.”

The same might be said for other types of support. If you are one of those who repeatedly sprain or strain an ankle, by all means wear an ankle brace during sports. “Those with absolute ankle sprains should prophylactically wear ankle braces,” Smyers said. “Bracing can drastically decrease the number of sprains,” for example, in soccer or trail running. There are good lace-up braces as well as taping options depending on the condition of your ankle.

TAPING TIPS: There are a number of types of tape on the market: K-tape, KT, Rock Tape, TEX, Spider, Gold, waterproof and so on. “Some stick better than others,” Smyers said. “Self-test. Some come pre-cut and shaped. In general, they all work the same.”

Color choice is up to you. Kinesio tape is latex free.

Applying the tape is simple. Cut the necessary number and length of strips, round the corners, lay against the skin in the prescribed tension and pattern, remove the backing as you do so, and smooth it down by rubbing to generate enough heat to help adherence.

Prescribed tension and pattern? Again, you need an evaluation by a professional. But after that there are ways for you to help yourself.

As Smyers suggested, visit I found the following book helpful: “Kinesiology Taping, The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Taping for Sports, Fitness & Daily Life, 160 Conditions & Ailments” by John Langendoen and Karin Sertel.

When the authors say 160 conditions and ailments, they mean it. Taping is recommended for, among other things, foot discomfort, bunions, weak ankles, sore shins, strained or cramping calf muscles, quadriceps and hamstrings that pull easily, shoulder pain experienced in raising the arm or rotating in the joint, headaches caused by tense muscles, abdominal strains, blocked sinuses, menstrual pain, first aid, bruising, swelling or edema, healing of a scar, carpel tunnel syndrome, thumb joint osteoarthritis, tennis elbow …

If the shoe fits, wear it. If the tape works, use it.

This story first appeared 3-13-2016 in the Rutland Herald & Times Argus, ACTIVE VERMONT section and was written by Linda Freeman, Field Editor.


Ryan Kerrigan speaks about the role of training and the outdoors for sports, performance and a healthy community.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo Ryan Kerrigan works out at the Trapp Family Lodge touring center in Stowe.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo Ryan Kerrigan works out at the Trapp Family Lodge touring center in Stowe.

[This article was first published in the Rutland Herald & Times Argus ACTIVE VERMONT page of the Sunday Magazine on 3-6-2016.                                      Written by Linda Freeman, Field Editor.]

ACTIVE VERMONT. To live in Vermont is to live an active life. Think about it. Daily life mandates more muscle, agility, energy and balance than that employed by our city-dwelling friends (unless, of course, they take the stairs instead of the elevators or walk instead of hiring taxis).

Some of us choose to add regular exercise to our days as well. Possibly we are addicted to the outdoors. Perhaps we enjoy competition or adventure. Those who purposefully follow the lead of sports and recreation often do so in community with others. The smart ones learn to train well and prepare for their activity.

RYAN KERRIGAN. Ryan Kerrigan grew up in central Vermont where he ran and skied from a young age. His dad, John Kerrigan, a longtime running and skiing coach at Harwood Union High School, often took his son along to weekend track and field events and cross-country ski meets where “it was pretty much ski or die,” his son said.

Activity for Kerrigan was competitive. “Most of my friends played soccer,” he said. “My dad was all about endurance sports.” Kerrigan, therefore, was often on his own, a fact that sparked his current interest in training groups. “There wasn’t a great local training club,” he said. What he lacked in his central Vermont community was a group of peers who shared his passion. Furthermore, there were few if any opportunities to train prior to the season, something that hindered performance.

Kerrigan, however, diligently pursued his own Nordic skiing athletic career. At Green Mountain Valley School, Kerrigan raced in New England, nationally and in Europe. Later, after spending four years on the University of Vermont Nordic Ski Team, Kerrigan went on to podium numerous times in marathon ski events and was named overall champion in 2012 of the New England TD Bank Marathon Series.

Though Kerrigan has a competitive spirit, intellectually he knows the importance of balanced training and play. He also seems to have coaching in his DNA.

VTXC SKI. Today, his primary focus is VTXC, Vermont Cross-Country, where goal-oriented hopefuls will find “Professional coaching for athletes of all ages. Helping you achieve your fitness and racing goals. Building a community of fun-loving fitness freaks.” ( functions out of the Stowe and Montpelier areas, but attracts athletes from the state and beyond.

VTXC is a collection of training and racing opportunities. Coaches with solid experience and expertise lead by example. These are athletes who have been there, done that, and are still doing it; and having a lot of fun in the process. So are their students.

There are training programs for juniors and seniors, running camps and racing teams. Well-structured on- and off-season training provides guidance and motivation for some, cross training for others, and social contacts for still more. “It’s not just a training club,” Kerrigan said, “but there’s a social component to it. Training is fun.”

Kerrigan is committed to some form of training throughout the year. “Year-round contact is so much more beneficial than one intense week,” he said. “Running and skiing are a lifestyle, not just a week.”

To participate in one of the VTXC programs, does one need to qualify or be able to perform at a competitive level? “I see a lot of clubs that try to build a club out of good athletes,” Kerrigan said. “I like to put that on it’s head. First, you build a community. Strong athletes will come from that.”

Kerrigan said he also believes in the role of family. “I love the family component,” he said. “First the kids, then the parents.” Kids come to train, learn and improve and have plenty of laughs. Before long the parents are involved and want to join in. “I like to imagine the dinner table talk,” Kerrigan said.

Just what is this training that Kerrigan speaks of and how do the coaches handle the individual differences of each group? “It’s a delicate dance,” he said. “A coach needs to look at each population to provide the training necessary for success, but also for fun and relative to life.” Clearly the participant wants to learn sports specific skills, but there are also games and ways to practice balance and agility along with general strength and fitness.

There are many ways to measure success. Early testing provides a benchmark for measuring progress. Testing along the way for lactic acid or participation in time trials can give positive or negative feedback. To Kerrigan, however, “over-quantifying is negative. The data segment might be relative to the athlete’s sport, but is not necessarily predictive of competitive success.”

MIXING IT UP. At VTXC, community is number one: It is where a passion for training is nurtured. Mixing it up, keeping things different and fun might come in a close second.

Summer training serves a good purpose to kids who are on school break and adults who want to begin to lay a foundation for winter sports. “One thing I like about summer training like soccer, hockey and lacrosse, is that it’s hard training and will get the athletes fit for anything,” Kerrigan said.

Mountain bike groups provide recreational cross training for summer camps. Young Nordic athletes hit the roads on roller skis preparing for skinny skis on snow.

Kerrigan’s master skier dryland and later on-snow training groups have increased in popularity, a testament to their effectiveness. Kerrigan characterizes his masters as “mostly at or near retirement age, but recently with some 30s. They come from all walks of life, farmers to doctors and lawyers.” As participants use ski specific drills to increase endurance, strength, quickness and agility on dryland and skills on snow, they also build confidence and enjoy the camaraderie of group dynamics.

“The biggest compliment I get from adults,” Kerrigan said, “is that coming into ski season they feel more balanced and have a better understanding of their sport. They also have a built in peer group.”

Throughout the year Kerrigan might work with up to 50 skiers in his masters’ programs and 40 kids. “A lot of people, once they know my background, talk to me about their fitness goals,” he said. “People need to find the spirit of outdoor recreation and how it applies to them.” We begin to see a pattern here; a pattern of good, hard, effective conditioning and training, but also community, variety and fun.

Kerrigan said he feels strongly about over-specialization and its negative impact on the athlete. A narrow approach to competition in one sport can lead to overtraining, a syndrome that begins with decline of performance and fatigue, progress to injury and debilitation and can physically, mentally and emotionally lead to the end of one’s competitive or recreational career. It’s a serious matter not to be taken lightly.

TRAINING. So far, there’s been a lot of talk about training. By now you, the reader, might ask, “but can’t you just do it (run, ski, bike) for fun?”

Perhaps the best question to ask is: “What is fun?” Not all sports are an outgrowth of what is naturally available to each individual. For example, most people can walk. Some, however, find it more enjoyable to walk fast, or to walk on country roads or trails that include distance and elevation. To do that, they can’t just get up out of a chair and go. They need to be sure that their steps are anatomically aligned to prevent joint injury due to inappropriate repetitive use. They need to increase their distance and pace gradually as their bodies adapt to the increasing demands upon it; and their leg muscles need to build the strength necessary to climb and descend. Without the proper foundation, walking could be unpleasant at best or injurious at worst with little chance of continuing the sport if the experience was miserable.

What about other sports? Do you play golf or tennis? Without a few lessons and a few basic skills is your game likely to be fun or frustrating? You can apply this yardstick to any activity that would be enhanced by significant conditioning, appropriate equipment and at least a rudimentary skill set.

Training is not a dreary matter of self-disciplined, grit-your-teeth time spent in slavery to one’s goal. Training is enlightening, ripe with possibilities and chock full of surprises and self-confidence for those who engage regularly in dedicating effort and enthusiasm to their sport. Training in community is bonding, motivating and supportive. Training with an experienced coach fans the flames of hope and the eagerness to expend effort in the process. The exhilaration one feels at reaching even the smallest achievement makes it all worthwhile and much more fun.

GUIDED TOURS. To round out his business ventures, Kerrigan also offers outdoor guided tours. (For more information, go to Kerrigan notes that outdoors, they’re lucky to have his dad involved, as the senior Kerrigan, in addition to knowledge of sports performance and conditioning, is able to share information about the flora and fauna of the Vermont outdoors.

Participants come from within and outside of Vermont, residents and visitors alike, to enjoy guided tours of the landscape on mountain bikes, backcountry skis, snowshoes or casual hiking. “It’s a way to experience forests, mountains and lakes and take training out,” he said.

“Take training outside,” Kerrigan said. “It is the core of recreation.”

Linda Freeman is an athlete and trainer based in central Vermont, and Field Editor of “Active Vermont.” Reach her through her web site,