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Two athletes in compression gear working out.
  • Writer's pictureCompression Athlete

Here Are 7 Performance-Boosting Reasons Why Athletes Wear Compression Sleeves

Useful benefits for athletic competition and everyday wear.

Runner wearing compression sleeves.

Maybe you first noticed compression sleeves on a professional athlete and it made you wonder what purpose it served.

Is the athlete injured? Is the sleeve providing some sort of benefit? Is it just a fashion statement? Or something else altogether?

For those not familiar with the world of compression, this is a pretty common reaction.

Compression sleeves tend to catch your eye thanks to their sleek style that fits extremities like a second skin and come in a variety of colors and patterns.

Because of this cool appearance, the uninitiated tend to wonder if compression sleeves are just for show or if they do in fact serve some purpose.

We’ll clear that up for you here with 7 beneficial reasons for wearing compression sleeves.

What Are Compression Sleeves?

To get things started, let’s quick go over what exactly we’re referring to when we talk about compression sleeves.

In appearance, a compression sleeve can look much like a detached shirt sleeve or pant leg (depending on the limb for which your sleeve is intended).

However, the compression sleeve will have nice hemming on both its top and bottom ends and will consist of the signature comfortable and stretchy texture of compression wear.

Compression sleeves are made of the same fabric as compression garments, typically a blend of polyester or nylon, with spandex or elastane.

Four of the most popular compression sleeve types are: arm, elbow, knee, and calf.

Runner wearing compression arm sleeves.

Compression Arm Sleeve: This compression sleeve covers the forearm, extends over the elbow, and cuffs above the bicep.

Weightlifter wearing compression elbow sleeve.

Compression Elbow Sleeve: This compression sleeve centers on the elbow, extending a few inches up the bicep and down the forearm.

Runner wearing compression knee sleeve.

Compression Knee Sleeve: This compression sleeve centers around the knee, extending several inches up the thigh and down the calf.

Athlete wearing compression calf sleeve.

Compression Calf Sleeve: This compression sleeve covers the entire calf, cuffing just above the ankle and just below the knee.

However, beyond these four common types, you can find compression sleeves in a variety of other forms, including shoulder, wrist, finger, ankle, and more.

Basically, if it’s part of your body there’s a compression sleeve or garment available to cover it.

If you'd like to see some of the top compression sleeve options available today, check out our picks for the best arm sleeves and the best leg sleeves.

Compression sleeves improve your circulation.

Compression sleeves are designed to promote better blood circulation from your body’s extremities, which help your muscles push blood back to your heart.

Better blood circulation has been shown to assist in reducing blood clots and alleviating vein disease symptoms like varicose and spider veins.

Runner wearing compression sleeves for circulation.

This is one of the reasons why compression, particularly compression calf sleeves and compression socks, is commonly used by travelers resigned to sitting for long periods of time.

Whether this is a long trip by plane, train, bus, or car, sitting for long periods of time will cause blood to accumulate in your lower extremities due to gravity.

A compression sleeve can improve your body’s circulation in this case, which is especially helpful for anyone that is at higher risk for blood clots.

Compression sleeves increase oxygenation in your muscles.

When you wear a correctly fitting compression sleeve its applied pressure dilates your arteries and constricts your veins in the area where worn.

This improves your body’s ability to pump oxygenated blood to your muscles, which is essential to muscle function.

With better muscle oxygenation, you’ll be able to push harder and last longer in your activity.

Compression sleeves provide support to your muscles.

Whatever your activity may be, wearing a compression sleeve can provide great support for your muscles, which is beneficial to performance.

For example, the support from your compression sleeve will reduce muscle vibrations that cause your muscles to fatigue, allowing you to perform at a higher level for a longer period of time.

Basketball player wearing compression sleeve.

Additionally, the provided muscle support can aid in injury prevention by stabilizing the muscle area where the compression sleeve is applied and increasing proprioception, which is our ability to perceive the position and movement of our body.

This is especially helpful for athletes that perform highly skilled maneuvers on a repeated basis.

Compression sleeves assist in muscle recovery.

It’s definitely hard to perform your best when you feel stiff, tight, sore, or achy.

Not only that, but you’re also more prone to injury when your body is in this state of limited and stifled mobility.

By improving circulation and oxygenation in your muscles, compression sleeves work to minimize lactic acid build up.

This helps to keep muscle swelling down and also speed up your muscle recovery time post-activity.

Compression sleeves have moisture-wicking capabilities.

The fabric of your compression sleeve works to wick moisture away from your body as you sweat.

Moving moisture away from your skin assists with your body's temperature regulation and helps to keep you from overheating.

Runner wearing compression sleeves for muscle support.

In hot weather, this means that compression sleeves can help to keep you cool and in cold weather they will help to keep your muscles warm.

This gives compression wear a wide application of use across the sports world and in everyday use.

Compression sleeves serve as a barrier for skin protection.

When worn correctly, compression sleeves offer your skin certain levels of protection.

For starters, they're a great way to protect against harmful UV radiation.

If you’re an athlete exposed to the sun for long hours, compression sleeves are a comfortable and multi-faceted solution against sunburn and overexposure to UV radiation.

Tennis player wearing compression sleeve outdoors.

Additionally, the coverage offered by your compression sleeve can help to reduce scratches, abrasions, cuts, and turf burns during athletic competition.

Certain compression sleeves actually come with padded protection built into the sleeve design to cover the applied area, such as an elbow or knee.

Padded compression sleeves are often utilized by athletes that are at higher risk of injury, either due to the nature of their sport or due to previous injury that has left the applied area susceptible to reinjury.

Compression sleeves can ease painful tendonitis symptoms.

For those dealing with pain from tendonitis, compression sleeves can ease your symptoms while you’re active.

Tendonitis is inflammation or irritation of a tendon that causes pain or irritation just outside the joint.

It can occur in any of your body’s tendons though is most common in shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and heels.

Unfortunately, tendonitis may be more likely to develop in people that participate in sports with repetitive motions (baseball, basketball, running, golf, tennis, and more).

Diagram of tendonitis in two athletes.

This is why you may hear tendonitis sometimes go by names like: Pitcher’s shoulder, Tennis elbow, Jumper’s knee, etc.

While compression sleeves cannot heal tendonitis, they can be helpful in both preventing and alleviating the symptoms.

Your compression sleeve offers stabilization and increased blood flow to the muscles where it is worn, which helps in reducing strain and swelling during activity.

It can also help your muscles warm up faster prior to activity and aid in recovery if worn after activity.

All of which can be helpful for your tendons when dealing with tendonitis.

Is a Compression Sleeve Right for You?

If you find one (or several) of these benefits appealing, then go ahead and jump on the compression sleeve bandwagon.

These sleeves aren’t just for professional athletes. They’re for any active person doing any activity.

Whether you’re throwing a baseball, gardening in the backyard, shooting a basketball, rolling a bowling ball, moving furniture, and more, if you’re moving and working your limbs, you can likely benefit from wearing a compression sleeve.

If you're looking to add a compression sleeve to your physical activities, check out our top picks for the best arm sleeves and the best leg sleeves.


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