Occasionally we field inquiries, even from athletic trainers about the tensile strength of athletic tape. Tensile strength is a way in which athletic tape is measured – different styles of tape have different tensile strengths. Those styles have different applications and there are a myriad of options in each athletic tape style. We'll address each one of those styles or varieties below.
High Tensile Athletic Tape:
Heavy Weight elastics like J&J Elastikon, Mueller Stretch MTape Premium, Cramer Super Stretch Non-Tear Tape, Hartman AC Tape and Jaybird Jaylastic Plus are high tensile tapes. Generally these are used to add extra support to a taping application. This tape is very flexible with an adhesive backing. It's typically strong but difficult to hand tear. Generally athletic training programs will purchase 1 case of a high tensile strength for every 20 or 30 cases of medium tensile tape. Tensile strengths for high tensile tape range up to or exceeding 100 lbs per square inch. Generally Heavy Weight elastics like Elastikon feature a red line down the center of the roll to serve as a taping guide. As with any adhesive tape, be sure to store in a cool, dry location.
Medium Tensile Athletic Tape:
Rigid “White Tape” like J&J Coach, Mueller MTape, Cramer 950, Jaybird EX1 and EX25 are considered medium tensile tapes. This is a "Bread and Butter" tape for almost all taping applications. Very rigid with adhesive back, easy to hand tear. A high school program may be purchase 50-100 cases of a medium tensile tape per year. Colleges and Universities with big football programs may purchase 500 cases or more. A typical figure-8 style taping application can use up to a full roll in one single application. The 2" width is often used in football to speed up the process of taping dozens of athletes. Some of these varieties come in porous cloth which is intended to let moisture escape.
Tensile strengths up to or exceeding 60 lbs per square inch.
Low Tensile Adhesive Athletic Tape:
Lightweight elastic adhesive tape like Mueller Tear-Light, Cramer ProLastic, Jaybird Jaylastic, Hartmann Pro's Choice Adhesive and BSN Lightplast Pro are examples of low tensile athletic tape. This tape is flexible joint taping where you want support but not restrictive to movement. Lightweight elastics are often used for holding padding or a brace that likes to migrate in place. Very elastic adhesive tape, very easy to tear. Generally athletic programs will use about 1 case of a low tensile strength for every 3 cases of a medium tensile tape.
The industry standard used to be a product called Conform from Bike. That product was discontinued in the late 1990s and as a result - many new lightweight elastics that we see today were introduced to fill that the need.
Tensile strengths around 20-25 lbs per square inch.
Low Tensile Non-Adhesive Athletic Tape:
Originally developed for the veterinarian market, lightweight elastic non-adhesive tape like Andover Powerflex, Mueller TapeWrap, Cramer Eco-Flex, Jaybird Cobird and Hartmann Pro's Choice Cohesive are examples of a low tensile non-adhesive athletic tape. This tape is used for the same applications as lightweight adhesive but generally cheaper because there is no adhesive. It is often used in wet conditions as no adhesive to break down. Sometimes used interchangeably with a Lightweight Adhesive - most athletic programs again use about 1 case of adhesive or non-adhesive lightweight adhesive stretch tape for every case of medium tensile rigid athletic tape.
As adhesives heat up they break down which can ruin your tape. It's always a good idea to purchase your adhesive tape from a supplier that air-conditions their warehouse. MioTech does!
Tensile strengths typically around 20-25 lbs per square inch. Non-Adhesives are some times called Cohesives because they only adhere to themselves. As long as the clinician can wrap it around upon itself, it does a surprisingly good job of adhering and staying in place, even though it actually has no adhesive whatsoever.
What Should you Look for in an Athletic Tape?
When you're just taping your own ankle for ultimate frisbee or pickup games at the gym, almost any tape will do. However, Certified Athletic Trainers, who tape hundreds of ankles every week can be particular about their athletic tape and understandably so. A course rigid athletic tape that doesn't tear or come off the roll well can actually cause blisters and even cut into your hands! Not to mention all the dollars that can fly out the door when you can't get that last foot off the roll.
Keys to Watch for:
Consistency: Most tape companies can produce a great sample roll of athletic tape - the problem comes when they are producing thousands upon thousands of rolls. Companies that succeed in selling large volumes of athletic tape into sports medicine maintain consistency. Roll after roll - each roll should appear and perform like that sample roll that they your salesperson handed over to you at the show.
Quality: Athletic tape is manufactured by applying adhesives to giant bolts of cloth and then wrapping it around a core and cutting into rolls. It's a complicated process that can fail at any point. If the adhesive isn't applied uniformly you'll receive tape that literally has lengths with little or no adhesive. If the cloth runs out and a new length has to be sewn on to complete the run in, you can receive rolls with a seam or "Suture" right in the middle of your roll. These rolls with seams in them are called Seam & Splice tape because literally there can be a seam somewhere in the middle of your roll running side to side. Seam & Splice tape or "Seconds" can sometimes be purchased separately at a discount - but, since it's not a planned production run item it's availability can vary.
What do you want to avoid?
The main thing you want to avoid is old tape because old tape is likely to experience a breakdown in the adhesive. This generally is evidenced by the adhesive near the core of the tape becoming very aggressive and difficult to unwind.
Also look out for athletic tape that's been stored in a hot shipping container. One of the challenges of importing athletic tape is those hot shipping containers that can literally bake the adhesive of your athletic tape. You can have a perfectly wonderful product but if it bakes in the hot sun, it will be ruined.
When stacking your tape, it's always a good idea to interlock the cases so the stacks don't fall over! To do that put two cases side by side and a 3rd case on the end running side to side. Then reverse and repeat the process.
In addition to athletic tape, we offer many other varieties of specialty tapes and wraps that we will outline in our next post. Look for that soon!
If you found this post helpful, you may want to also see our post, "Understanding your J&J Athletic Tape Lot Numbers".
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