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The mystery of the black stuff on Kerri Walsh's shoulder

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

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"My friend said she's covering up a tattoo."

"The black tape might be a tribute to somebody."

"It IS a tattoo."

"Tape. It's some sort of medical tape."

"That's actually a Nike swoosh."

Everyone has an opinion about what that black stuff is on Kerri Walsh's shoulder: some are right, most are wrong. But that's why we're here, to separate the fact from the fiction. After some Phelps-like domination in solving our first three mysteries, Fourth-Place Medal's Investigative Unit (FPMIU) will today tackle the mystery of the black stuff on Kerri Walsh's shoulder.

If you've watched any beach volleyball so far during the Olympics, you've surely noticed it. Spread across American star Kerri Walsh's right shoulder is a distinct black marking that sort of looks like a cross between a tribal tattoo and a Rorschach test. (I see a butterfly.) So what is it?

As is usually the case in instances like this, the most mundane explanation is also the correct one. The black markings on Walsh's shoulder are a sort of medical tape. Specifically, it's called kinesio tape, a special elastic material designed to support muscles while offering an unimpeded range of motion. Walsh had shoulder surgery last fall to remove bone chips, bone spurs and scar tissue that had built up over a lifetime of setting and spiking. The tape, and taping method, help stabilize the shoulder during the match and aids in circulation.

Mystery: solved.

Tomorrow, Fourth-Place Medal will tackle our biggest mystery yet. We're watching old Murder, She Wrote reruns to prepare. If you have an Olympic mystery you'd like solved, leave a comment below.

Photo via Getty Images

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