If you’ve been watching the Olympics, you’ve surely noticed all the strips of colored tape plastered to athletes’ bodies. The media sure has: In the past two weeks, Reuters, the Atlantic, ABC News, and Fox (among others) have all reported on the colored tape, which is sold by a company called Kinesio. According to the product's website, the tape is designed to “facilitate the body’s natural healing process while allowing support and stability to muscles and joints without restricting the body’s range of motion.”
The press has questioned this claim, and rightly so. Studies of the tape’s efficacy suggest that there’s no proof that this particular tape is any better than any other kind of tape. But this doesn’t mean athletes shouldn’t use it, especially if they believe that it works—and many, judging by the number wearing it at the Olympics, do. The placebo effect—the idea that medically inert substances that people believe to have a beneficial effect can, in fact, have a beneficial effect—is a well-documented phenomenon. And in sports, studies suggest that placebo effects improve performance.
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