Why Do Baseball Players Wear Compression Sleeves?

Why Do Baseball Players Wear Compression Sleeves?

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You may have noticed a new trend in recent years with baseball players (especially pitchers and catchers) wearing compression sleeves on their throwing arms.  Have you ever asked yourself, “Why do these baseball players wear these special sleeves?”  In this article, we will answer this question.  We will also discuss the many benefits of wearing compression sleeves.

The main reason that baseball players wear compression sleeves is to prevent an injury to their throwing arm.  The compression sleeves “compress” the biceps, triceps, and deltoid muscles which leads to better circulation in the player’s arm.  Many baseball players have stated that they love the added support that the compression sleeves provide to their arm.

Want to know the top benefits of using compression sleeves?  Read the next paragraph below.

Top Benefits of Wearing Compression Sleeves

In addition to the better circulation mentioned above, here are some more of the added benefits of wearing compression sleeves.

  • Increased Blood Flow– Compression sleeves increase the rate of blood flow in the throwing arm. Blood brings the muscles the precious nutrients they need to fully recover after a long baseball game of making many throws. By increasing the amount of blood flow to the throwing arm, the baseball player will experience a quicker recovery time and less soreness in their throwing arm.  The less soreness is due to the decreased amount of lactic acid. Almost every baseball player in the game deals with some sort of arm soreness so this is a big benefit to compression sleeves.
  • Reduced Swelling– The repetitive throwing motion is extremely hard on the arm’s muscles, joints, tendons, and ligaments.  In fact, some pitchers throw well over 100 pitches per game which does NOT include all of the warm-up throws before an inning starts.  This repetitive movement usually results in lots of swelling and inflammation in the throwing arm.  Compression sleeves reduce the amount of swelling and inflammation which greatly reduces the player’s pain level after a game.
  • Helps Keep the Arm Warm– Many baseball games are played in the early spring or late fall when temperatures are in the chilly range of thirty to fifty degrees.  These frigid temperatures can make the throwing arm more likely to get cold and stiff which decreases throwing performance.  The compression sleeve helps the throwing arm hold in heat and keep the whole arm at a comfortable temperature.  This is a huge benefit because a high number of arm injuries like strains and sprains occur when the throwing arm is not at a comfortable temperature.
  • Sunburn Protection– One benefit of compression sleeves that most people may not think about is protection from the sun.  Lots of baseball games are played in the hot boiling sun of summertime afternoons.  Many baseball games can last three to four hours which is a long time to be exposed to the sun.  The compression sleeves protect the player’s arm from the damaging UV rays.
  • Protection against Grass and Turf Burns– Many times a player will suffer “burns” from the turf or grass after diving for a ball.  This is where the skin feels rubbed raw due to the speed of the diving player combined with the heat from the grass.  The skin will often look red and irritated and this is uncomfortable for the baseball player.  Wearing compression sleeves protects against these types of nagging injuries.  The sleeve acts as a second skin and absorbs most of the impact of the dive.

Things to Consider when Buying a Compression Sleeve

The main factor to look at when purchasing a compression sleeve is ensuring the proper fit.  The key term is “snug”.  Remember, the compression sleeve is supposed to “compress”.  Therefore, the sleeve should fit tightly on the throwing arm.  However, it should not be so tight that it negatively impacts the baseball player’s natural throwing motion.  It is best to try on a couple of different sizes to find out which size is more comfortable for the ballplayer.  Compression sleeves sizes are usually determined by the size of the player’s biceps muscle.

Another factor to consider is what type of material the compression sleeve is made out of.  You want to make sure that the material can dry sweat quickly and pull sweat away from the skin.  Most compression sleeves are made out of nylon, polyester, and Spandex (or a combination of all 3).

Always remember to check with your baseball league’s board of directors or rule book to make sure the compression sleeve you are purchasing is deemed legal.  Most leagues do not have any set rules against compression sleeves, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Interesting Facts about Compression Sleeves

  • Although compression sleeves are immensely popular amongst baseball players, it was actually former NBA basketball star Allen Iverson that first made compression sleeves popular.  Iverson suffered a bad bout of elbow bursitis back in 2000 and started wearing a compression sleeve to help relieve the pain.
  • The price range for compression sleeves is anywhere from $5 to $50 depending on brand type, size, and other factors.  As with buying most products, remember the adage: “Cheaper is not always better”.  Sleeves on the lower end of the price range usually will not last an entire baseball season.
  • Some of the most popular compression sleeve brands for baseball players are EvoShield, Adidas, Nike, Viper, and Under Armour.
  • There are some newer baseball compression sleeves that come with added elbow protection. Elbow injuries are especially common in pitchers who throw lots of curveballs and sliders because of the added stress from “snapping” the ball.  In 2015, elbow injuries were the main reason players landed on the DL (disabled list).
  • There are also some high-tech baseball compression sleeves available that measures things such as elbow stress and arm speed. These sleeves are extremely expensive because they come with a small sensor inside of it that keeps track of data related to the throwing arm.  Major League Baseball Pitcher Dan Straily has said that this special device has helped him recover from a nagging shoulder injury in the past.
  • In most baseball leagues, pitchers are not allowed to wear sleeves that are white or gray in color.  This is because the color could help hide the baseball and be an unfair advantage to the pitcher.

Related Question

Q. How Do I Safely Wash My Compression Sleeve?

A. Compression sleeves must be washed after each baseball game to remove dirt and sweat.  However, one must be incredibly careful to not harm the elasticity of the compression sleeve.  The safest option is to wash the sleeve by hand with a gentle soap and warm water.  After washing, wring out the excess water and hang on a clothesline or on a clothes hanger to let dry.  If you insist on using a washing machine, please remember to wash with cold water and on the gentlest cycle possible.  Gently washing the compression sleeve will make it last longer and save you money in the long run!

See Also:
Why Do Baseball Players Wear Chains?
Why Do Baseball Players Grab Their Crotch?
Why Do Baseball Players Eat Sunflower Seeds?

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