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DunkOrThree > Your Basketball Blog > Why Do Basketball Players Wear Tape on Their Fingers? An Insight Into Sports Safety

Why Do Basketball Players Wear Tape on Their Fingers? An Insight Into Sports Safety

Publish Date: 08.04.2024
Fact checked by: Jackson T. Pierce

Basketball, for all of its pros, is a dangerous sport. There are many ways to get hurt on the court, especially when playing at a high level. Fingers are particularly susceptible. That’s why so many athletes tape their digits both before and after an injury.

Taping a single finger reinforces the joint to prevent breaks and sprains, while buddy taping a hurt finger to a healthy one is a great way to stabilize the joint and promote recovery. In either case, taping adds strength to the hand and prevents further damage.

The Purpose of Taping Fingers

There are many ways to heal or rehab injured body parts, but when it comes to fingers nothing is quite as effective as taping. The process gives the digits ample protection, which is critical when it comes to support and healing.

Typically, broken or sprained fingers go through a few rehab phases. First, if the finger doesn’t require surgery, it is put in a splint for a few weeks. While some players may try to get on the court during that time, it’s not recommended.

After the splint comes off, the finger is stronger but still vulnerable to reinjury. Players can try to get back onto the court but only if the finger is properly supported. That’s where taping comes in.

Taping the injured finger to another healthy finger anchors the joint, allows it to bend, and enables players to move their hand in a way that minimizes both damage and pain. It also greatly reduces the chance of a re-sprain or break, which is vital for the recovery process.

Taping is also useful for players who have a history of hurting their fingers or who have weak joints. In both cases, the adhesive provides the hands with extra support and makes sure the finger doesn’t get caught, bent, or jammed in an unnatural way.

Types of Finger Taping

When asking why basketball players wear tape on their fingers it’s important to look at the buddy tape method. There, athletes take two strips of athletic tape and then wrap them around both the injured digit and the one next to it (never taping the thumb).

There is also preventative taping, which is used more commonly for those who have a history of finger injuries or who need to protect their joints. In such cases, tape is carefully wrapped fully around a single finger to give it extra reinforcement. That can increase grip strength too.

Benefits of Finger Taping

The above methods are important for many basketball players because they enable athletes to get back out on the court in a safe way. Anchoring one finger to another goes a long way for both injury prevention and general recovery.

In buddy taping, the second finger stabilizes and supports the hurt one by giving it a base. Where a lone finger might more easily get caught during a play, one taped to another won’t bend as easily.

On top of that, it’s also much easier to dribble, play defense, and shoot. That’s because a non-taped finger undergoes a lot more stress than a taped one. The pressure put on by the tape cuts down on swelling and makes it easier to use your hand during a game.

The Science Behind Taping

Buddy taping is not a new topic. It’s a tried and true method that’s proven effective for both fingers and toes. Supporting a digit is the best way to get back onto the court, and the most effective form of re-injury prevention.

Many studies show that buddy taping is the best way to heal while still playing basketball. It’s not as effective as rest, but it’s a good middle ground. Though the individual taping of one finger doesn’t have the same scientific backing, it can still work for some athletes.

Splints are slightly better when it comes to protection, but those greatly hinder performance and cause stiffness. Buddy taping doesn’t just anchor the joint or injured area, it also allows players to use their hands. They will still lose some mobility, but it’s better than nothing.

How to Tape Fingers for Basketball

To buddy tape, first get two pieces of athletic tape. Next, extend the injured finger and the healthy finger next to it. Wrap the first piece of tape around both fingers just above the hurt area, (typically the top or middle joint) and the second around both fingers just below that area.

Once the fingers are fully taped, they stay locked together for the duration of the game, scrimmage, or practice. Remove the adhesive once the activity is over. For single taping, wrap a few strips around the finger you want to reinforce.

Professional Insights

Players at every level utilize the above methods if something happens to their finger. While preventative taping is quite rare in the league, buddy taping is used by almost every single team when a player sprains, jams, or breaks their finger.

Kobe Bryant spoke on the method after Stephen Curry hurt his finger back in 2017. He stated that his broken finger was one of the worst injuries of his career, and added that taping combined with padding is the best way to recover.

Doctors at all levels of sports medicine have also weighed on the topic, stating that buddy taping is the most effective way to protect and support a finger. That’s why it’s the most common treatment for finger injuries for athletes and non-athletes alike.

Risk and Considerations

Taping, as with any rehabilitation process, needs to be done right. Improper taping can lead to some bigger issues if it’s not performed correctly. Wrapping the tape over the joint can actually add stress and slow the healing process.

Loose or wrongly applied tape can also lead to huge problems in terms of re-injury. That’s because players may return too early and then get hurt when playing.

Leaving the tape on too long can lead to skin damage or even infections in some extreme cases as well. It’s critical to take the adhesive off as soon as you’re done sweating to cut down on such complications.

Comparison with Other Sports

Buddy taping is one of the most effective ways to prevent further finger injuries. It’s so effective, in fact, that it’s used across almost all major sports. Anytime a player has a hurt finger or lasting digit injury, they will likely use the buddy taping method if they want to get back to playing.

The only other popular type of finger taping is what is known as x-taping. This process, where athletes wrap an individual finger in tape, is popular for climbers, as well as those in combat sports like martial arts, boxing, or MMA because it helps with grip strength.

Conclusion

Buddy taping is one of the most effective ways to add stabilization and power to injured digits while on the court. It does a great job of providing much needed support and can have great results in terms of both injury recovery and prevention.

Finger injuries are quite common in a contact sport like basketball, and the healing process can take a long time. Taping the injury not only helps athletes get back on the court faster, it also promotes healing. That’s why it’s the industry standard for helping such issues.

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