A recent article in The Washington Post discusses the body of research that has been conducted on the effectiveness of athletic compression gear. Compression garments – socks, hose, sleeves, even bodysuits – are clothes that compress the limbs, and have been used to treat various venous disorders such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), to improve poor circulation, as well as to reduce injuries and boost performance for athletes. The increased arterial pressure caused by the garments creates increase in blood flow to the heart.
In recent years, the use of compression attire has become something of a fad in the sports world. “It seems that you can’t head to a gym or run down your favorite trail these days without finding someone wearing compression garments,” says the article. “Weekend warriors and elite athletes alike are squeezing themselves into knee-high socks, tights and even full bodysuits that promise to improve performance and speed recovery from hard workouts.”
The research has been largely positive, according to the article. Although early studies using runners and jumpers were unable to verify a definitive boost in performance, a 2012 Canadian study found that “compression socks improved blood flow to calves,” according to the article, and that the socks had the potential to enhance performance, particularly for sports that require “repeated short bouts of exercise.”
The article notes that the results have been even more conclusive regarding the use of compression garments for sports recoveries. In an Australian study, rugby players wore compression tights during “active recovery” treadmill runs. Researchers found that the tights helped remove lactate (the compound that makes muscles burn during exercise).
The article also describes a study at the University of Connecticut that put men and women in full-body compression suits. The participants went through an intense weightlifting session, after which researchers found that the compression suits helped to “reduce fatigue, swelling, muscle soreness and other side effects of exercise.” The article recommends compression clothing as a recovery aid for athletes and people who spend a lot of time on their feet – a soothing replacement to the tried-and-true ice bath.
PRO Compression responds to the article, saying that the benefits of compression technology have been known to science for some time; they have been a windfall to the medical industry in helping post-op patients recover more quickly, for example.
And while compression clothes have become a mainstay for endurance athletes, who use them to train harder and recover faster, their thermoregulatory benefits (including the ability to increase circulation), make them a potential tool for thousands of others, including other types of athletes. They add, however, that different kinds of compression garments target different performance goals; it’s important to choose the right one for your purposes.
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