Football Player

Why Do Football Players Wear Tape On Their Arms?

I’m not saying that wearing tape on your arms will help you win more football games. But can it hurt? I started my coaching career at a small and rural high school. I was a lowly assistant on the defensive side of the ball. We finished under .500 every season I coached there. It couldn’t have had anything to do with the coaching, so maybe it was our gear. All our guys had the essentials — cleats, pads, helmet, and mouthguard. But some of the bonuses that can make significant differences — cleats for different conditions, gloves, visors, tape, and the like — well, those were for bigger schools.

A couple of years later, when I moved to a suburban school not far off, our guys had all the trimmings — tape on the back of their arms and artificial turf fields included. Now, we didn’t win any championships, to be sure, but we did win more games than we lost. It must have been the tape, right? As I said, it couldn’t have hurt.

What Will The Tape Protect You From?

If you’ve ever had a severe case of rug burn, this is going to make a lot of sense. That tape that football players wear on their arms is called Turf Tape or, in some cases, Cover Roll. It looks like Kinesio tape that many volleyball players and cyclists wear to provide support, reduce pain, prevent swelling, and boost performance.

High collision sports like football involve many collisions and friction between bodies, jerseys, equipment, and even the field. At high speed, landing on turf is a lot like landing on pavement or gravel. All those collisions can strip hair and flesh from exposed skin, especially when players land on turf. While it can happen on natural grass, rug burn is especially common and painful on artificial turf. Wearing tape can protect you from turf burn and the pain, infection, and scars that can follow.

Medical Benefits Provided By Wearing Strips Of Tape

Turf tape is different than Kinesio tape and athletic tape; you might get wrapped around ankles before playing football. Turf tape or cover roll won’t protect you from separating a shoulder or an elbow injury, but it can keep the flesh of your arms from getting burnt and stripped when you hit the ground. Anything that prevents those surface abrasions to your skin also eliminates the risk of infections and long-lasting scars.

Because turf burns can develop severe infections unless protected by antibiotic ointments and gauze, it’s no laughing matter. An infection may not be as dramatic an injury as a separated shoulder or sprained knee, but they can keep you off the field and have long-lasting consequences. You can protect yourself from turf burns and infections as easily as by wearing turf tape on vulnerable parts of your body. While you’re considering your options, think about having to clean dirt out of a fresh and oozing strip of turf burn down your arms. Ouch.

What Is The Best Football Tape On The Market?

One of the top brands of football tape for controlling abrasion is Mueller Pro Strips for Abrasion Control. These strips are cut ahead of time to 4”x8” so you can peel and place them quickly where and when you need them without having to measure and cut ahead of time. They can also be trimmed. Other sizes are available. 

If you’re looking for longer strips of tape like worn by New Orleans Saints RB Alvin Kamara, check out BSN Medical’s Cover-Roll that comes in 4” wide rolls that are 10 yards long. You can cut them down to size. Or, for a bonus, you can even get turf tap with built-in padding like McDavid HEX Padded Turf Tape. It comes in rolls, too.

McDavid HEX Padded Turf Tape. Sticks to Skin. Protective Padded...
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McDavid HEX Padded Turf Tape. Sticks to Skin. Protective Padded...
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Do I Need To Wear Tape On The Back Of My Arms?

You should wear turf tape where you need protection from turf burn. Where do you tend to make contact with the turf? If you’re an RB repeatedly being tackled to the ground or a WR who lays out to make a catch before being dragged down and along the turf out of bounds, taping up the back of your arms makes a lot of sense.

How and where you tape also projects a particular image. NFL player Alvin Kamara has made no secret that taping up both arms’ back is as much about style as game. And there’s nothing wrong with that as long as you’re following your league’s rules.

Regular Season Shut Up GIF by NFL - Find & Share on GIPHY

Which Positions Need To Wear Football Tape?

If your goal is to prevent turf burn and related infections, you should wear turf tape if you play a position that sends you to the turf at high speed pretty regularly. The most obvious positions that would benefit from wearing turf tape are running backs, wide receivers, cornerbacks, safeties, and even linebackers. Truth be told, though, wearing turf tape isn’t going to hurt anyone. If you’re a football player, you’re vulnerable to abrasion, and wearing turf tape can help protect you no matter what position you play.

Does Tape Come Off During Contact?

The short answer is: no, it shouldn’t. Think of turf tape and cover roll as a really effective bandaid (without the gauze section). Quality turf tape is designed to stick to your skin and hold up against abrasion and friction during football games. If turf tape isn’t applied as directed, it can come off or be ripped, of course. So follow all the instructions carefully. If you’ve got really hairy arms, trimming some of that hair might help with adhesion and removal when you’re done.

Final Words

Is wearing turf tape going to help you win more games? Maybe not, but it may keep you on the field by protecting you from infections that can flow from serious and repeated turf burn. Whatever position you play, turf tape or cover roll can protect you from the inevitable abrasions involved in playing football.

Jonathan Roussel
Jonathan Roussel
Jonathan Roussel is a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and Indigo League champion. He now chases the dream to become a part-time Jedi Master like Gandalf. He means to reach his goals by sleeping 14 hours a day and eating pineapple pizzas.