If you’ve watched any sports over the last several years, you’ve probably noticed professional athletes wearing compression arm sleeves on one or both arms. The trend has been particularly popular in professional basketball, with some of the biggest stars wearing sleeves.
It has also been catching on with tennis stars slowly but surely – Milos Raonic was one of the first to try a compression sleeve, wearing one over his right arm during the 2014 Miami Masters. He was using it to keep sunlight away from a rash he had on his arm, but decided to stick with it even after the rash was gone, in no small part because he was winning while wearing it. Serena Williams wore a pink compression sleeve on each arm during the 2016 U.S. Open.
While many athletes decide to give compression sleeves a try because of their style, the sleeves also provide a few key benefits that can give your tennis game a boost. Here’s why you should start wearing compression arm sleeves when you’re on the court.
If you’re going to add an accessory to what you’re wearing on the court, it needs to help you play better. A compression arm sleeve helps to improve muscle awareness and provides support. By wearing a compression sleeve, you could find that you’re able to hit powerful serves, backhands, and forehands, and lose less power as you get deep into matches.
A compression sleeve can also help with a dreaded issue for tennis players – tennis elbow. You may even want to wear a sleeve when you’re not playing. Allen Iverson notably used a compression sleeve to help deal with elbow bursitis.
So, should you wear one compression sleeve or two? It’s more important to wear a sleeve on the arm that you use to hold your racket, but wearing one on your other arm can’t hurt, either.
The positive effects of a compression sleeve don’t just benefit you during a match. They also extend into your post-match recovery. If you’re not playing in a tournament with multiple matches over the course of one or more days, recovery isn’t as crucial. Still, no one likes to be sore for days on end, so anything that helps you recover more quickly is a wise choice.
The primary way that a compression sleeve helps you recover more quickly is through the increased blood flow that it provides. Your muscles recover from blood flowing through them and repairing the damage done by hours of swinging a racket around at high speeds. It stands to reason that if the blood flow going to those muscles is better and faster, then those muscles will be able to heal more quickly.
Of course, there is no magic bullet that’s going to help you recover instantly from the rigors of a tennis match. Any time you put your body through an intense physical activity, some soreness is to be expected. But you may find that wearing a compression sleeve during your tennis matches and for a short time afterwards helps you recover more quickly and feel less soreness, overall.
You need to be prepared for the elements when you play tennis, and one of the great things about compression sleeves is that they work well in both hot and cold weather. This makes them a versatile accessory choice that you can wear no matter the conditions.
If it’s cold out, compression sleeves will keep your arms warm. If it’s a hot day, compression sleeves keep your arms dry because of their moisture-wicking fabric. This breathable material allows your arms to get plenty of ventilation, so they stay cool even as the temperature rises.
Another benefit of keeping your arms dry with compression sleeves is that you don’t need to worry about sweat dripping down and making your grip slicker, affecting how you handle your racket. Anyone who has ever hit an error because they lost their grip on their racket handle at the last second will know how important this is.
Considering all the potential benefits, it’s in your best interest to give compression sleeves a try and see how they affect your performance and recovery. They’re very comfortable to wear, as they utilize a seamless construction and high-quality fabric that lets your skin get plenty of air.
Tennis is rarely at the forefront of innovations that improve sports performance, often sticking to tradition while athletes in other sports try new things. A few tennis stars have started wearing compression sleeves, though, and more are likely to follow as they learn about the benefits. You have nothing to lose by slipping on a pair for your next match, and you’ll likely find that they add to your game. Compression sleeves won't help you play like Federer overnight, but they can help you squeeze every bit of athletic ability out of your body.