Since soccer is a game that is played predominantly with the feet and legs, it may seem strange that soccer players tape their wrists.
Only the goalkeeper is allowed to interact with the ball using their hands, but many players on the field have their wrists taped.
Why do soccer players tape their wrists? First and foremost, it is for the players’ protection. Although technically a non-contact sport, there is a lot of jostling for position in soccer, and players frequently fall to the ground. The tape provides support for the joint in those circumstances.
Protecting Players During a Fall
Most of us have tripped or fallen at some point in our lives, and when that happens, it is our instinct to reach our hands out to catch ourselves.
While this can lead to a wrist or arm injury, we do it (without thinking) in order to protect our head and neck from having a hard impact on the ground.
Although soccer fields are made of grass and watered regularly, they’re not a pillow-soft surface to fall on. Especially when players are running quickly or have jumped up to head a ball, they can hit the field with significant force.
The tape provides support so that the wrists don’t hyperextend backward when a player hits the ground.
Tape Underneath Goalkeeper’s Gloves
Most goalkeeper gloves have an adjustable strap around the wrist area, but this is to ensure that the gloves stay in place.
These straps generally don’t provide enough actual wrist support for a goalkeeper, so they often tape their wrists and fingers first before donning the gloves.
The tape serves the same purpose for the goalkeeper as for the other players, but given the way that goalkeepers dive to the ground, it is even more important for them to keep their wrists protected.
They’re also challenged quite often as they jump up for the ball, which could cause injury as they collide with another player.
When Injuries Do Happen
Even though leg and foot injuries are common in soccer, hand and wrist injuries happen, as well. These injuries can occur during a game or practice or even in the course of a player’s daily life.
No matter the cause, soccer players may need to continue playing despite these injuries, and in order to help heal the injury and prevent further damage, players will add the tape to their wrists.
It is a fact of sport that players have to play through an injury, but taking measures like adding tape can help ensure that the players don’t further hurt themselves and perhaps create a more severe injury.
What Type of Tape Do Soccer Players Use?
There is no shortage of types of athletic tapes for players to choose from when they tape their wrists, but most tapes designed for the wrist have some general specifications.
For the wrist, most athletic tapes have a width of between 1.5 to 2 inches (3.81 to 5.08 cm). This is wide enough to provide support around the larger joint, whereas tape designed to be worn on the fingers has a much smaller width.
Athletic tapes also come in a variety of materials and adhesives. Finding the right combination of adhesive and material is going to vary from player to player, as some may prefer cotton, nylon, or a synthetic material.
When it comes to adhesive, it’s critical to find one that will keep the tape in place when needed, last throughout the entire workout or game, and also come off easily from the skin without causing irritation or leaving any residue.
Athletic Tape vs. Kinesiology Tape (KT Tape)
While athletic tape does offer support to the wrist, it is designed for short-term use and is designed to restrict movement. This protects the player from the excessive movement of the joint when they fall or come in contact with another player.
KT Tape is instead designed to be worn over a period of days and is water-resistant, so it can be worn through workouts, showers, and even swimming. KT Tape was designed to change the way the body processes pain and assist in injury recovery.
It is usually used in conjunction with things like physical therapy after an injury has occurred. So while you may see players who have had previous injuries wearing KT Tape, most will be using standard athletic tape in their preferred material/adhesive combination.
Other Uses of Wrist Tape
In some cases, players may tape their wrists for purely cosmetic reasons. This has happened across sports, from elbow compression sleeves in the NBA to the under-eye black tape or grease that NFL players wear.
Since players are usually very restricted in what they can wear on the field or court, many of them use things like wrist tape to accessorize and stand out. Some write messages or the names of organizations or causes that they support on their tape or eye black, as well.
Other players may have superstitions related to their use of tape. Since some players like to wear certain bracelets or pieces of jewelry during a game for luck (which is against the rules), they use the tape to cover up those good luck charms.
Others may find the ritual involved with applying the tape helps them get in the right headspace before the game, much like many boxers say that their taping ritual helps them get in the correct state of mind.
How to Wrap Wrists For Soccer
While the ritualization may be similar to boxing, the act of wrapping the tape is very simplistic compared to a boxer’s routine.
Generally, soccer players will have two or three wraps of tape just under the bend of their wrist. Some may add wraps around the thumb to add additional support, much like Luis Suarez’s now-famous hand wrap.
Additionally, goalkeepers or other players may also add thinner tape to their fingers above and below the knuckles rather than directly over them.
While primarily used for additional support and to protect the joint during impact, the use and purpose of athletic tape around soccer players’ wrists has evolved over time. Some players may choose to wear the tape for cosmetic reasons, to cover jewelry, or for good luck.
No matter the reason, it’s quite common now to see players of all levels sporting tape around their joints during games and workouts.