What Do Compression Arm Sleeves Do? They Benefit Because…

what do arm compression sleeves do

photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr

We see them everywhere, but what do compression arm sleeves do exactly? They are just about everywhere from basketball to baseball to football and even to golf! Major athletes like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel, Derek Jeter, and many more have been seen using them on the court and field. Major newspapers and magazines are writing about it like Men’s Journal. Compression arm sleeves are much more than a fashion fad these days as there are several studies that showcase the concrete benefits of compression arm sleeves. Let’s examine the top reasons to use them in any sport and what studies have shown the positive results.



Quick History on Compression Arm Sleeves

what do compression arm sleeves do

photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr

Surprisingly, arm sleeves have actually been around for a long time. More than 60 years ago they were only utilized to treat venous diseases because specialists understood some of the benefits of compressing blood vessels. They knew that contracting the vessels improves blood flow and gets oxygen rich blood to muscles quicker. Arm compression sleeves were popularized by Allen Iverson in 2000 when he battled elbow bursitis. The sleeve allowed him quicker recovery and the ability to minimize the pain so he could continue playing basketball. Iverson liked the sleeve so much that he continued wearing it starting the revolution we see today. In fact, basketball players commonly call these basketball shooting sleeves because many players wear them on their shooting arm. It is used many ways including performance enhancement, speedy recovery, and adding style to your game, but what are the actual benefits of arm compression sleeves?




What Do Compression Arm Sleeves Do?

Arm compression sleeves offer benefits in a number of categories. Their effects have been studied several times, but rarely for athletes in the major three sports of basketball, baseball and football. This study focused on golfers using compression sleeves and their results showcased pretty good results using sleeves. But let’s review some of the widely believed positive effects of arm sleeves.

Improved Circulation

One of the biggest benefits of arm sleeves is improved circulation within the arm. The compression factor in arm sleeves is designed to squeeze the blood vessel in the arm and force them to open. This helps the heart pump more oxygenated blood into the arm for the muscles to use. This higher quality pumping of the heart can potentially reduce your heart during exercise. Another benefit of improved circulation is a lesser change of swelling during exercise and after and swelling is a definite sign that an athlete is on the verge of an injury. Lastly, good circulation can protect muscles from future injury or even provide some support for athletes who have a previous injury. Carmelo Anthony and Allen Iverson are both examples of professional players using sleeves for injuries. In fact, many MLB pitchers have used arm sleeves to protect their valuable throwing arms.

Faster Recovery

what do compression arm sleeves do

photo credit: Keith Allison via Flickr

Another major benefit of compression arm sleeves is the faster recovery athletes experience. This has been documented and proven in several studies including this one by the American Journal of Medicine. It showed that athletes using compression sleeves have much less lactate levels in their muscles after exercising when compared to athletes who don’t use sleeves. High lactate levels can lead to swelling, decreased performance and increase recovery time which is not what any athlete wants. The most important aspect to healthy and speedy recovery with arm sleeves is to use a graduate compression style sleeve. The graduated compression means that the sleeve fits tighter on the wrist and loosens slightly at the bicep. This is crucial in helping the blood flow back to the heart as quickly as possible to get more oxygen to muscles.

Maintain Warmth

For athletes, it’s crucial to stay warm and ready during every moment of the game, even if you spend a few minutes on the bench resting or waiting your turn to bat. Compression sleeves help the body maintain it’s warmer temperature during exercise thus keeping muscles relaxed and ready to perform. It also helps in situations where weather can impact the game. A cold football or baseball game will make it tough for athletes to perform at peak levels, but arm sleeves can minimize that weather impact and allow players to play. And with the proper material selection, you can have a sleeve keep you warm and dry by wicking away sweat.


Outside of injury protection, arm sleeves can also provide general protection from bumps and scrapes. Competitive sports are battle grounds and players are very likely to get cuts during games. Arm sleeves can help protect your arms from other players and keep you scratch-free. Plus many models today have built in pads around the elbows to protect against a fall. Dwayne Wade is a popular user of padded arm sleeves. If you play an outdoor sport, arm sleeves can also protect against dirt and grime from the field to keep you looking good.


What To Look For In An Arm Sleeve

The number one thing to remember is the fit of an arm sleeve is crucial. It should fit snugly where you feel the compression and it won’t fall off, but not too tight that your hand starts turning colors. Many major manufacturers have size charts so study them before buying. Another important point is to consider what sport you’re using these sleeves for. White sleeves will get dirty and ugly if used outside often, so if you play outdoors, consider a darker color. Now arm sleeves aren’t going to magically turn you into Superman, but they should help in plenty of ways to justify the purchase. There are many great compression arm sleeves out there and you can choose which one is right for you, but I hope we helped answer that lingering question of what do compression arm sleeves do anyway? Best of luck in your sports and feel free to browse our other articles on all things basketball!



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