Mirai Nagasu and “the tale of the tape” (the petrochemical-based tape)

Health |  2 min. read

Maybe you watched Mirai Nagasu land a triple axel Sunday night (Monday night, if you were there in South Korea) – the first-ever American woman to do it at the Olympics.

And maybe, when you got over that — you were one of many people who wondered – what was that “thing” on her thigh?

Tattoo?  No.  Bruise?  No.  Turns out – it was “USA” – printed on the KT Tape she was wearing under her tights.

And KT Tape turns out to be the Official Kinesiology Tape Licensee for the U.S. Olympic team (Admit it, THAT’s a category you’d never heard of before.  We hadn’t either.).

What’s that all about?  Petrochemicals, of course.

Now that’s not why our Olympians wear it.  They like it because – well, let’s have KT Tape tell the “tale of their tape”: “an elastic sports tape designed to relieve pain while supporting muscles, tendons, and ligaments – helps reduce pressure to the tissue – without restricting comfort and range of motion.”  And some athletes in outdoor events, skiers for instance, are even wearing the tape on their faces – to keep their skin from freezing.

But what makes that possible is the petrochemical touch.  In particular (for you chemists), it’s all about the polyacrylate, a polymer resin made from propylene (which is one of your basic petrochemicals).  It’s the petrochemical touch which makes a tape that can fit precisely to your muscles, and stay flexible enough to expand and contract with them.  That “touch” also repels water and wicks moisture away, so Olympic (and weekend) athletes can concentrate on their performance.

In a way though, this petrochemical connection is no big deal.  No big deal – because it might be harder to find a sport without some polymer-based material, without some synthetic fiber, in short, without a petrochemical connection.

Last week, we did a little Sports Petrochemical 101 on the Games – how petrochemicals are used in making skis and skates and sleds – helmets and pads – jackets and pants and brooms (the ones for curling).   Petrochemicals can even be used to help make the snow and the ice!

So, like most of us, you might be likely to make a triple bogey than a triple axel – but if you play a sport at any level, your game is probably better thanks to – petrochemicals.