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The NBA bans and then un-bans Derrick Rose from wearing ‘protective’ neck tape of dubious medical origin

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Rose plays with the tape affixed on Thursday night (Getty Images)

For the last two games Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose has worn Kinesio Tape strips on the back of his neck, ostensibly to help ward off the pains that stem from a strained neck. The strips are a little off-putting, but nothing too attention-grabbing; and after Rose mused aloud about wearing the strips all season last Friday, they didn’t seem like anything that would be too tough to get used to seeing on Derrick.

For an afternoon, at least, we thought we were going to have to get used to seeing him without them, because the NBA apparently asked Rose to stop wearing the strips. Then, just two and a half hours before Rose's Bulls were set to tip off against the Indiana Pacers, the NBA released a statement confirming that they would be allowing Rose and other players to wearing the strips "on an experimental basis." Which makes sense, because you can be covered with prominent tattoos from head to toe, or gel your spiky Mohawk sky-high, but little strips that provide comfort to a one-time league MVP would be verboten?

From Aggrey Sam at CSN Chicago:

"I think the NBA told me I got to stop," the point guard said before the Bulls' morning shootaround at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. "So I probably won't be able to wear it tonight."

When asked why the league, known for strict protocol on non-uniform accessories, decreed that he couldn't wear the black Kinesio-Tape strips, which resembled a chin strap, Rose answered with a smirk, "I don't know. I don't even want to get into that. I don't know. I swear I don't know."

Rose went on to tell the media that “other than my neck, I’ve been good.” Which is OK, I reckon.

The tape came into national prominence over a year ago, during the London Olympics. Designed to somehow separate layers of skin on athletes in order to limit pain, the strips were used across the board by several athletes, and in the description Yahoo Sports' Martin Rogers documented in 2012, you can understand why Rose wants to give the things a try:

However, Dr. Kenzo Kase, the Japanese inventor who developed the tape more than 30 years ago, has admitted that although he believes in its healing powers, no scientific evidence supports his claims.

"Your pain sensors are located between the epidermis and the dermis, the first and second layers of your skin," Kase told the Guardian. "I thought that if I applied tape to the pain it would lift the epidermis slightly up and make a space between the two layers. This would in turn allow blood to flow more easily to the injured area. But you can use the tape in lots of ways, depending on the width and the amount of stretch.

So, we're basically stretching layers of skin in different places in order to encourage blood flow and pain relief. Seems valid enough, righto?

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Again, we think the initial ruling was pretty daft on the NBA’s part, but the actual use of the strips might be a little daft on Rose’s part as well.

There is considerable evidence that paints this tape as nothing more than a placebo for those that use them. Via ClutchFans.net, here’s a study that was quoted on the tape’s Wikipedia page:

(Hey, I’m not a doctor. Dummies like me use Wikipedia.)

In conclusion, there was little quality evidence to support the use of KT over other types of elastic taping in the management or prevention of sports injuries. KT may have a small beneficial role in improving strength, range of motion in certain injured cohorts and force sense error compared with other tapes, but further studies are needed to confirm these findings.

A Web MD study (again, not a doctor … stop judging me) goes into further detail:

There has not been conclusive scientific or medical evidence to confirm the effectiveness of the tape. A review of evidence from 10 research papers for Kinesio tape to treat and prevent sports injuries was published in the journal Sports Medicine in February.

[…]

The study concluded there was little quality evidence to support the use of Kinesio tape over other types of elastic taping to manage or prevent sports injuries.

Some experts have suggested there may be a placebo effect in using the tape, with athletes believing it will be helpful.

"The jury is still out on the hard and fast science of it," says John Brewer, head of sport and exercise sciences and director of sport at the University of Bedfordshire in the U.K.

He finds it difficult to understand how the tape can help: "When we exercise, it is muscles that are deep down in the body that are as much part of the energy-generating process as muscles near the skin.

"I'm still struggling to come to terms with how tape that is placed on skin can have any real, major effect on performance, other than potentially, a psychological effect."

The “psychological effect,” however, is huge. It’s why athletes eat the same meals before every game, or tie their shoes a certain way, or wear all manner of sometimes-needed pads or sleeves. Players are looking to feel comfortable and confident, and a lucky team handshake or pregame iPod playlist can work just as well as a placebo effect as “medical” tape like this.

Even if the tape’s “effects” truly are bogus.

Which is why, for a player that needed 18 months to feel confident in his return from an ACL tear, we would prefer that the NBA just leave Derrick Rose alone. Sure, the Kinesio Tape probably has just as much medical substance as a player’s headband, but the league allows those to be worn every night, with the NBA’s logo prominently displayed.

Oh, wait. I think I’ve figured this out now. Just draw a little Jerry West silhouette on your tape, Derrick. Everybody wins, that way.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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