Fact vs. Fiction: Do Compression Garments Actually Work?

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A group of cyclists in compression garments race

In the ultra-competitive world of athletics, athletes are always looking for ways to improve their performance and recovery. It may be with the tried and true methods of proper sleep, eating and hydration or with other methods such as massage therapy, whole-body vibration and compression garments.

But, how many of these claims are legitimate and which ones are just another trend being promoted for profit? We’ve rounded up info on some of these questionable commodities to answer that very question in our brand new blog series: Fact vs. Fiction

In the second part of this series, we're taking a look at something most of us have worn before...

Compression Garments

Compression garments can be seen on a variety of athletes, from cyclists and runners to skiers and speed skaters. These tight-fitting articles of clothing are made out of elastin and nylon, and are thought to increase blood flow to the muscles by compressing them, which is supposed to enhance athletic performance. 

Performance

According to a recent meta analysis of 55 different studies, compression garments made little difference to performance levels in athletes. It was found that compression garments make no difference to these performance variables: blood lactate concentrations, maximal and submaximal oxygen uptake, blood gas analysis, cardiac parameters and body temperature. 

These garments were tested for running (short and long distance), ice speed skating, triathlon, cross country skiing, and kayaking. When it comes to cycling, more studies found no difference in performance levels when compared to ones that did. What little evidence has been found in some studies could be due to a placebo effect

While studies don’t indicate any performance enhancing benefits or changes, some athletes feel confident and “supported” while wearing compression garments, so there’s no harm in wearing them! 

Recovery

Recovery and performance go hand in hand; the better an athlete recovers, the better they can perform! While the evidence is scarce when it comes to compression garments enhancing athletic performance, there is evidence of them assisting with recovery! 

Compression garments have been shown to help with muscle recovery after fatiguing exercise. A randomized controlled trial illustrated that compression socks assist with muscle recovery for marathon runners. The trial had runners wear either medical grade compression socks or placebo socks with minimal compression after running a marathon. The results showed that functional recovery was improved in the athletes wearing the compression socks. The study concluded that two important factors contribute to recovery: the compressive value and quality of the garment. The compressive value should be between 35 to 45 mm Hg and the quality should be medical grade, not “fashion accessory grade.”

It’s safe to say there’s no harm in wearing compression garments during sport, but research suggests that it won’t help improve an athlete’s performance. On the other hand, if an athlete wants to enhance recovery, they should try wearing these tight fitting garments! 

Join us next week when we make things personal and explore Athlete Electronic Health Records!  

While this blog series references multiple studies in order to support or debunk claims about various athletic products available on the market today, Presagia Sports does not necessarily claim that the results definitively represent the value and effectiveness of each product. We encourage you to conduct your own independent research. 


Want more Fact vs. Fiction? Check out our the other posts in the series (links to be added as published) and don't forget to subscribe to our blog to receive updates the moment they go live!

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