Highland Games Basics: Let the Nerve Damage Begin - Taping Your Thumb

Highland Games Basics: Let the Nerve Damage Begin - Taping Your Thumb

If you’re looking to make some instant improvement in your weights for distance, than look no further than permanently damaging your thumb!  I mean, you’ve got two, so hurting one of them won’t be a problem, right? Look at the bright side – you’ll be throwing further!

If you’re not already, it’s time to start hook gripping the handle in the light weight and heavy weight for distance. There have been only a few people in the history of the sport who could get away with just a standard grip in these events, and the world record holders hook grip so, there’s a good chance you should to. 

Now, look, I get it. I used to be “anti-hook grip.” It hurts. It really does. I’ve been throwing in this sport since 2004 and it doesn’t get any easier on the thumb as the years pass. So, since you’ve made up your mind and you’re going to start the nerve damage, how do you go about getting a good tape job on the old hitchhiker tool?  Here’s how I like to tape my thumb:

1. Apply Tacky or Spray Tacky to your Thumb

Our sport is “played” in the summer and fall, which can lead to hot and humid days. So, how do you keep that opposable thing of beauty from losing it’s latex free protection?  I like to apply a thin mist of spray tacky or even hammer tacky on my thumb prior to wrapping it with tape. The key is to let that thumb dry a bit so it is tacky and sticky to the touch, not dripping of tacky. Put that sucker in front of the A/C vent in your car or even wave it around, but let it dry so you have a great canvas to work your masterpiece on.

2. Half Strips

You’ll want to tape your thumb using half strips, not full width tape pieces. This allows you to tape around the knuckle better as well as the parts I’m about to show you. So, use your fingernail (or a pair of scissors if you lack pinching power) and split the end of the tape into half the width of your roll.

3. Tape the Side

Place a strip of tape running along the side of the thumb. This helps “set the stage” for the tape that you’re about to wrap around the thumb.

4. Tape Over the Top

Place a strip of tape running along the bottom and top of the thumb. Start at the base of the thumb, on the palm side. From there, run it up and over the top of the thumb and finish past the base of the thumb on the back hand side.

5. Tape Around the Thumb

Again, using half strips, begin wrapping around the thumb. Make sure you wrap around the knuckle as you make the paths back and forth. You’ll wrap the knuckle, of course, but the first pass or two you should leave it open. The last thing you want to do is create a cast for your thumb; you still want it to bend and flex so you can easily handle the … well … handle.

6. Tape the Opposite Direction

While it’s not critical, I like to wrap my thumb both clockwise and counter-clockwise. I think this helps my tape job to stay tight and not get loosened up as easily since I have the tape going opposite directions. I don’t have lab results or 6th grade science experiments to prove my hypothesis, but my gut tells me it helps.

7. More at the Top

I like to use a third strip to wrap the top of my thumb a bit more than the rest of it. Because your thumb tip will be taking the most damage, put that extra protection and padding on there. I know some guys like to use the thicker top end to help them with their hook grip, but for me it helps to reduce some of the blood blisters and pain.

Well, that’s it! From there, tape whatever other fingers you feel you need to! I actually do a couple of passes around my pinkie because my short stubby fingers force me to hook grip pretty deep in my hand. Most importantly … throw! Lots! Figure out what tweaks you can make on this tape job that best fit your throwing style, hand size and, quite honestly, heat and humidity of the area you’ll be throwing in!


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