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Compression garments are pieces of clothing, such as socks, pantyhose, sleeves, etc., that provide support that is especially useful for people who have to stand for long periods, or people with poor circulation. The garments can come in varying degrees of compression. Higher degree sleeves, such as sleeves that provide compression of 20-30 mmHg or higher, typically require a doctor's prescription. Compression garments worn on the legs can help prevent deep vein thrombosis and reduce swelling, especially while traveling.
Compression stockings are specialized hosiery designed to help prevent the occurrence of and guard against further progression of various medical disorders.
One small study of compression shorts found no change in sprint time, but found some gait changes that might reduce injuries. Another study of calf sleeves found no change in sprint times and gait; larger reviews have found no evidence that compression garments can improve athletic performance beyond the placebo effect.
Through testing repeat-sprint and throwing performance in cricket players, one study found that there was a significant difference by way of higher mean skin temperature, lower 24-hour post exercise CK values and lower 24-hour post exercise ratings of muscle soreness when wearing compression garments. However, the study failed to find any significant difference in sprint performance, throwing performance, heart rate, or various blood tests.
In materials testing, the compressive garment provided increased flexion and extension, which could help reduce hamstring injuries. They also reduced impact by 27% compared to American football pants alone.
Other purported benefits of compression sportswear are:
- It keeps the muscles warm to prevent muscle strain.
- It wicks sweat away from the body to prevent chafing and rashes.
- Helping relieve pain from muscle stiffness and soreness.
- Reducing the time taken for muscles to repair themselves.
- When the right amount of compression is used (will vary depending on body area, typically in the range of 10 to 25 mmHg), improving venous return and oxygenation to working muscles.
Shorts and tights
More recently, jockstraps have declined in popularity with young male athletes, and garments such as compression shorts have seen an increase in popularity, arguably because of their comparable function and less embarrassing looks. Many are available with a cup pocket, a sewn-in pocket that can hold a protective cup. It is arguable that compression shorts do not keep cups in the proper position, tight to the body and not moving, as a jockstrap can. Some players wear the compression shorts over the traditional jockstrap.
Compression shorts are also popular among female athletes, especially among those who wear skirts or kilts during games. In those situations, athletes wear compression shorts under the skirt so if they fall over and their skirts ride up, their underwear will not be exposed. This is seen particularly in women's lacrosse and field hockey (both being no-contact sports in which players often wear skirts). In this situation, compression shorts are colloquially identified as spandex shorts. Women also wear compression shorts in tennis, where, most recently, compression shorts have been produced with ball pockets for convenience. There are also women's compression shorts for use before, during and after pregnancy. Pregnancy compression shorts supports upper and lower abdominal muscles, Caesarean wounds and perineal stitches.
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- Doan BK, Kwon YH, Newton RU, et al. (Aug 2003). "Evaluation of a lower-body compression garment". J Sports Sci. 21 (8): 601–10. doi:10.1080/0264041031000101971. PMID 12875311.
- Duffield; Portus, M; Edge, J. (2007). "Comparison of three types of full-body compression garments on throwing and repeat-sprint performance in cricket players". British journal of sports medicine. 41 (7): 409–14; discussion 414. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2006.033753. PMC . PMID 17341589.
- Doan; Kwon, YH; Newton, RU; Shim, J; Popper, EM; Rogers, RA; Bolt, LR; Robertson, M; Kraemer, WJ (2003). "Evaluation of a lower-body compression garment". Journal of sports sciences. 21 (8): 601–10. doi:10.1080/0264041031000101971. PMID 12875311.
- Kraemer, WJ; Bush, JA; Wickham, RB; Denegar, CR; Gómez, AL; Gotshalk, LA; Duncan, ND; Volek, JS; et al. (2001). "Influence of compression therapy on symptoms following soft tissue injury from maximal eccentric exercise". The Journal of orthopaedic and sports physical therapy. 31 (6): 282–90. doi:10.2519/jospt.2001.31.6.282. PMID 11411623.
- "Where have all the jockstraps gone?". Slate Magazine (2005-07-22).