I get a lot of questions about why basketball players wear what they do. From tights to arm sleeves to ankle braces and even things like goggles, I'll explain what advantages these things provide (if any) and break down why you should or should not consider wearing them.
Basketball players often wear tights to improve their performance and reduce the risk of injury. Compression tights, in particular, can help to increase blood flow and reduce muscle fatigue, leading to better endurance and faster recovery times. They also provide support and stability for the muscles, helping to prevent strains and sprains. Additionally, tights can offer some protection from the elements, keeping players warm in cold weather and helping to wick away sweat during intense games. Overall, wearing tights can be a beneficial choice for basketball players looking to maximize their performance and minimize their risk of injury.
1. Improved Circulation
First, compression tights can help to improve circulation and reduce muscle fatigue during games or training. They can also provide support to the muscles and joints, which can help to prevent injuries.
Compression tights are designed to apply graduated pressure to the legs, which can help to improve circulation. The pressure from the tights works by squeezing the veins in the legs and promoting the flow of blood back to the heart.
The compression also helps to increase the velocity of blood flow, which can improve the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles. This can result in reduced muscle fatigue and soreness, as well as improved performance during exercise.
In addition to improving circulation, compression tights can also help to reduce swelling and inflammation in the legs by preventing the build-up of fluid. This can be particularly beneficial for athletes who are recovering from injuries or who are prone to swelling.
It's important to note that while compression tights can be helpful for some athletes, they may not be suitable or necessary for everyone. It's always a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional or sports medicine specialist before using compression garments.
2. They Look Good
Let's be honest: a lot of players wear tights for aesthetic reasons. Tight-fitting clothing can help to enhance the appearance of muscle definition and make the player appear more streamlined.
3. They Help Absorb Sweat
Tights can also help to regulate body temperature by keeping the muscles warm and wicking away sweat, which can be important during intense physical activity.
Compression tights are made from synthetic materials such as polyester or spandex, which are designed to wick moisture away from the skin. This means that sweat is drawn away from the body and evaporates more quickly, helping to keep the athlete dry and comfortable during exercise.
The tight-fitting nature of compression tights also helps to prevent chafing and irritation that can occur when loose-fitting clothing rubs against the skin during physical activity.
Some compression tights also feature mesh panels or ventilation zones to increase breathability and further enhance moisture management.
It's important to note that while compression tights can help to absorb sweat, they are not a replacement for proper hydration during exercise. Athletes should always drink plenty of water and electrolyte-rich fluids to stay hydrated and maintain optimal performance.
Arm Compression Sleeves
Arm sleeves have become a popular accessory for basketball players, with many players wearing them during games and practices. While the benefits of wearing arm sleeves are not fully understood, many players believe that they provide mild compression to the arm, which can help to improve circulation, reduce soreness, and keep the shooting arm warm. Additionally, arm sleeves can provide some protection from scratches, bumps, and UV rays. Some players also find that the added grip from the material can improve ball handling and shooting accuracy. While more research is needed to fully understand the benefits of wearing arm sleeves, they are a popular choice among basketball players looking to optimize their performance and protect their arms during gameplay.
1. Compression and Muscle Support
Similar to compression tights, arm sleeves can provide graduated compression to the arm muscles, which can help to improve circulation, reduce muscle fatigue, and prevent injury.
Arm sleeves can also provide some protection from bumps, scrapes, and other impacts during play. This can be particularly beneficial for players who dive for loose balls, block shots, or engage in other physical aspects of the game.
Arm sleeves have become a popular accessory in basketball, and many players wear them for aesthetic reasons. Arm sleeves come in a variety of colors and designs, and some players use them as a way to express their individuality on the court.
Some players may wear arm sleeves as a psychological boost, as they can provide a sense of comfort and security during play.
Ankle braces are a common accessory worn by basketball players to help prevent ankle injuries, which are among the most common injuries in the sport. Ankle braces can provide support and stability to the ankle joint, helping to reduce the risk of sprains and other injuries. They can also help to reduce the severity of an injury if one does occur. Studies have shown that athletes who wear ankle braces during gameplay are less likely to experience ankle injuries than those who do not. In fact, one study found that three times as many athletes sprained their ankle while playing without ankle braces than playing with one. Additionally, ankle braces can be particularly beneficial for players who have a history of ankle injuries or weakness. Overall, wearing ankle braces can be an effective way for basketball players to protect their ankles and minimize the risk of injury during gameplay.
Finally, a lot of players wear various braces to prevent injuries. Some are worn following a major injury as a part of the rehab process. Others, such as ankle braces, are worn more proactively to prevent sprains or twists, especially when an athlete is fatigued.
Unlike compression tights and arm sleeves, most athletes aren't wearing braces for aesthetic purposes. If you're competing at a high level, where you're practicing almost every day, wearing ankle braces isn't a bad idea simply for some extra support. A lot of college programs actually require you to wear them.
Tape On Their Ears
Basketball players may tape their ears to protect earrings or holes from earrings. This is observed more in non-professsional games, where young athletes may not want to take out earrings for fear of them being stolen.
Plastic masks are typically worn to project an injury on the face. The most common use is to protect a broken nose. Rip Hamilton, below, broke is nose in 2002. He then broke it again twice during the start of the 2003-2004 season! At that point, Rip had to wear the mask. It would become his trademark, and he would continue to wear it for the rest of his career.
I wouldn't recommend wearing a mask unless you really need one. You can buy them off sites like Amazon, where they typically run $40-$50.
Goggles are worn by NBA players first and foremost to improve their vision. With the advancement of contact lenses, most players don't wear goggles anymore. For those that do, the goggles/glasses are usually less about being able to see better and more about protecting their eyes. A player may wear glasses after being poked in the eye.
Goggles aren't super expensive. At the time of this post, you can pick up the pair below in multiple color combinations for $16.99.
Bands Around Their Knees
Basketball players wear bands around their knees to brace their patellar tendon. If you're a player with knee pain when you're running or jumping, you may have patellar tendonitis. You may also have weak quads. Bands should be used to help prevent discomfort, but it's best to identify the underlying problem so you can work on it.
When I was younger, I suffered from something called Osgood Schlatter's and benefited a great deal from wearing knee straps. In terms of what to buy, the product below from Cho-pat has been around forever and works well.
As you can see, some of the "accessories" that have become popular often have some performance benefits. In a lot of cases, though, the benefits are purely cosmetic.
My last piece of advice is this: a brace or support of any kind shouldn't be used to overshadow muscular deficiencies. A young player may say, "Well, I have weak ankles." My response would be to wear ankle braces to prevent injury but also work to shore up the weakness. On the flip side, you may never have had an ankle injury in your life. Should you wear ankle braces? It's probably a coin flip. On one hand, your ankle joints stay stronger without them. On the other, any athlete competing at the college level or higher that's working out multiple hours per day is going to have periods of fatigue. You just are. Don't let those moments turn into moments of injury risk.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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