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UK Coaching Team
Improving Physical Ability

Compression Clothing: Useful or Over-hyped?

We spoke to Olympic and international athletes, alongside research specialists, to understand more about the use of compression clothing, and found that opinions on it remain divided

Like any fashion trend that claims to be backed by science, wearing sports clothes that fit tightly to the skin provokes strong responses. This is especially true with physically intense sports such as rugby.

Rugby league today is packed with tech to help players, but for former Leeds Rhinos and England captain Kevin Sinfield, compression clothing, which was introduced in the last few years of his time as a player, made the biggest impression.

“They're good for training enhancement but recovery as well,” Kevin says. “As I got older, I found it really helpful to recover and I also enjoyed training in it.

Former Olympic sprinter Emily Freeman was similarly impressed when she used it for recovery. However, she makes the point that it can’t replace other important elements of training.  

“If you're looking to maximise recovery, compression wear is absolutely something to consider, but things like sleep and nutrition are more important elements to get right first.

Just a fad?

The Science for Sport website acknowledges that the following may be aided by compression clothes:

  • Joint awareness.
  • Blood flow.
  • Waste removal.
  • Swelling and post-exercise muscle soreness.

However, this comes with a warning:

“This current body of research is of low-quality and riddled with large inconsistencies – meaning the information should be accepted with caution.”

A study conducted by Nike echoes that note of restraint. 

“We don’t see any evidence that they result in improvement of performance,” explains lead researcher Ajit Chaudhari.

Summing up current research, Science for Sport acknowledge that the only harm in wearing compression clothes is likely to be felt by your wallet. 

“As no negative effects on performance have been observed, compression garments remain a recommended tool for promoting recovery and thus influencing subsequent performance.”

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