Why Do Basketball Players Wear Arm Sleeves?

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You’ve no doubt seen basketball players wearing arm sleeves on the court, but have you ever wondered why they wear them? Allen Iverson was the first to wear an arm sleeve during the 2000-2001 season of NBA, and ever since, there’s been a steady increase in the number of players who are sporting arm sleeves. So, let’s dig a little deeper into this and find out why the pros wear them.

What Are Arm Sleeves?

Arm sleeves are, in essence, like longer wrist bands covering from the wrist to the biceps. They’re typically made from nylon or spandex making them easy to put on and take off after a game. 

There are a number of reasons why basketball players use arm sleeves:

1. Compression aid

One of the main reasons players choose to wear arm sleeves is to aid in compression of the arm muscles. Created with fabrics offering elasticity to squeeze the muscles they aid in allowing blood flow to the arms. Basketball can be brutal on the arm muscles; players put themselves through strenuous physical strain which can easily lead to injuries. During a game, the arms can sustain minor injuries, wearing arm sleeves will help the stability of the arms should these occur. 

Getting the right arm sleeve is imperative for this purpose. Wear anything that’s too tight and you’ll restrict the blood flow causing muscle strain and aching. If the arm sleeves are too loose they’ll roll down which can be distracting and could cause you to lose contraction during the game as you constantly pull them up. 

2. Muscle warmth

Sleeves keep you warm and warm muscles allow you more flexibility. A handful of sports demand arm flexibility like basketball. If your arm tightens, you’re more likely to mess up your passes, dribbling, and long-range 3 pointers.

3. Protection from injuries

Some arm sleeves come with additional padding at the elbow. While injuries are common in a match, a blow to the elbow might be the end of the sports season for a player. So, for them it’s worth it. They can help to prevent skin rashes, scrapes and grazes too.

4. Placebo effect following injury

Following an injury, an arm sleeve might be necessary to aid in recovering and offer additional support. But even after the injury has long since healed, some players still continue to wear their sleeve or sleeves. Sustaining an injury can be a traumatic experience from which is can be difficult to recover both physically as well as mentally. 

For this reason, some players will still insist on wearing a sleeve because it makes them perform ‘normally’ with the ‘blanket effect’ that this offers. This ‘placebo’ effect can help players to perform better and with more confidence.

5. Protection from the sun

If you play outdoors in the sun, donning a pair of arm sleeves can help to protect your arms from the harmful UV rays in the summer. And besides which it can help prevent injuries if play gets a little rough and you hit the deck. 

6. Covering tattoos

Having a tattoo, or several tattoos, isn’t against the rules but players have to be sensitive to the people who might be watching and could easily be offended by certain words, symbols or pictures. Wearing arm sleeves is a simple and effective way of covering any tattoos and avoiding causing offense. 

7. Fashion statement

Kobe Bryant and LeBron James often wear arm sleeves for no other reasons than as a fashion statement. And from here more and more players are picking up this trend and wearing their sleeves as fashion articles. Much like we’ve seen with shoes, sleeves are now becoming as popular a fashion item both for professionals and for other folks shooting hoops. 

In a 2008 survey, arm sleeves were the most popular non-apparel item sold by the NBA. You simply can’t ignore that wearing an arm sleeve on the court just ups the cool factor, while remembering it’s an accessory that goes beyond enhancing your looks.

Closing Thoughts

So, that’s it for arm sleeves. Hope this short guide helped broaden your knowledge and you now know that arm sleeves go far beyond just an aesthetic accessory. Next time you see a game or someone asks why the top players now wear arm sleeves, you’ll be able to give them the low down on exactly why they do.

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