Compression Garments: Are they Worth the Squeeze on Your Wallet?

For elite athletes, effective and efficient recovery proves crucial to higher levels of achievement. Better recovery allows for more rapidly increasing training loads.

What’s more, some athletes compete multiple times per week or even multiple times per day. Faster recovery means better performance all around.

Among the many techniques for accelerating recovery, compression garments are common. Compression garments are known to improve recovery, but the decades of differently structured studies have produced a cloudy picture. Fortunately, Freddy Brown (of St Mary’s University College, Twickenham, UK) and his research colleagues boiled it down for us. The journal Sports Medicine recently published their meta-analysis of 23 studies.1  

What do the studies show about compression garments? The effects on recovery are small but very likely, the researchers say. Effects were very small and likely trivial in the 0- to 2-hour range. However, moderate and large effects were observed between 2-8 hours, 24 hours, and greater than 24 hours post exercise. The greatest benefits are available in the recovery of strength and power. Improvements in recovery of endurance can be measured, but may be of no practical importance. Recovery from metabolic exercise reached statistical significance, but the most likely benefit is afforded to cycling performance 24 hours post exercise. Trained and untrained athletes had similar benefits. Among commonly available pressure garments, the amount of pressure did not make a difference.

In conclusion, compression garments most likely have a small but real effect in improving strength and power recovery from a few hours after exercise to a day or more.

Reference

  1. Brown F, Gissane C, Howatson G, Van Someren K, Pedlar C, Hill J. Compression garments and recovery from exercise: a meta-analysis. Sports Medicine. 2017 Nov 1;47(11):2245-67.

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