Why do basketball players wear sleeves? Unravelling the purpose beyond fashion

Why do basketball players wear sleeves? Unravelling the purpose beyond fashion

Kenneth Mwenda
June 11, 2023 at 10:58 AM

If you have ever watched a basketball game, you may have noticed that many players, particularly in the NBA, wear sleeves on their arms and legs. At first glance, it may seem like a mere fashion statement, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

Why do basketball players wear sleeves?
Stephen Curry (30) of the Golden State Warriors dribbles past LeBron James (6) of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 104-101 Lakers win in game four of the Western Conference Semifinal Playoffs at Crypto.com Arena on May 08, 2023, in Los Angeles, California. Photo: Harry How
Source: Getty Images

What arm do you wear a basketball sleeve on? The garment can be worn on either arm or leg. In this article, we will explore the purpose behind these garments and why basketball players embrace them as an integral part of their attire.

Why do basketball players wear sleeves on their arms?

One of the most common sights on a basketball court is players wearing sleeves on their arms. These arm sheaths, often made of compression fabric, serve multiple purposes that benefit the athletes during the game.

1. Injury prevention and recovery

Basketball is a physically demanding sport, and players are susceptible to various arm-related injuries such as muscle strains, contusions, and even mild sprains. Arm sleeves offer protection by providing compression and support to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the arms.

This compression helps stabilise the muscles and reduces the risk of injury. Additionally, the sleeves can aid recovery by promoting blood circulation and reducing muscle soreness post-game or practice.

2. Enhanced warm-up

Before a basketball game, athletes engage in warm-up exercises to prepare their bodies for intense physical activity. Arm sheaths can assist in this process by trapping heat close to the skin, thus promoting increased blood flow to the muscles. This added warmth helps loosen up the muscles and joints, making them more flexible and ready for action.

3. Better grip

Sweat can be a significant challenge for basketball players, affecting their grip on the ball. Arm sheaths, especially those with silicone or rubberised patterns, enhance friction and provide better ball control. The improved grip allows players to handle the ball more effectively, reducing the chances of turnovers and improving overall performance.

Why do basketball players wear sleeves on their legs?

Why do basketball players wear sleeves on their legs?
Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics during game 7 of the NBA Eastern Conference Finals on May 29, 2023, at TD Garden in Boston, MA. Photo: Stephen Nadler
Source: Getty Images

Similar to arm sheaths, basketball players also utilise leg sheaths, often called compression tights or leg sleeves. These garments offer specific advantages to players, contributing to their performance and well-being on the court.

1. Muscle support and stability

The physical demands of basketball require players to jump constantly, change direction, and make explosive movements. Here, most of them wear compression sleeves. Leg garments provide compression and support to the muscles in the legs, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.

This support helps reduce muscle oscillation during movement, minimising the risk of strains, pulls, and fatigue. The sheaths enhance overall performance and help players maintain their agility and explosiveness throughout the game by providing stability.

2. Increased blood circulation

Just like arm sleeves, leg sleeves apply compression to the muscles, which promotes blood circulation. Improved circulation ensures a steady supply of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, enhancing their endurance and aiding in recovery. Players can perform at their best for longer durations by reducing muscle soreness and fatigue.

3. Injury prevention

Basketball players are prone to various leg injuries, including muscle strains, contusions, and shin splints. Leg sleeves offer a layer of protection by providing mild compression and support, which can help prevent these injuries or reduce their severity.

Additionally, the compression promotes proprioception, the body's awareness of its position in space, leading to improved balance and stability, ultimately reducing the risk of falls and twisted ankles. Some move a mile further to wearing mouthguards which protects their mouth from injuries.

Why do basketball players wear sleeves on one arm?

Why do basketball players wear sleeves on one arm?
Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers fixes his arm sleeve during the first half of their NBA game against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena on January 8, 2023, in Toronto, Canada. Photo: Cole Burston
Source: Getty Images

While it is common to see basketball players wearing sheaths on both arms, some athletes choose to wear them on only one arm. This practice is often based on personal preference, superstition, or even aesthetics. However, there are a few practical reasons why players opt for a single-arm cover:

1. Elbow protection

Many basketball players, especially those who frequently drive to the basket or engage in physical play, wear an arm sleeve on their shooting arm. This serves as a form of protection for the elbow, guarding against accidental bumps, hits, or falls that could lead to injury. The garments provide a layer of padding, reducing the risk of contusions and bruises.

2. Flexibility

Some players feel that wearing a sleeve on both arms restricts their range of motion, particularly when shooting or dribbling. By opting for a single-arm sheath, they allow their non-shooting arm to move more freely, promoting better coordination and control.

Why do basketball players wear one-leg sleeves?

Why do basketball players wear one leg sleeves?
Jamal Murray (27) of the Denver Nuggets controls the ball during the first half against the Miami Heat in Game Three of the 2023 NBA Finals at Kaseya Center on June 07, 2023, in Miami, Florida. Photo: Mike Ehrmann
Source: Getty Images

Similar to the choice of wearing a single-arm sleeve, some basketball players prefer to wear a leg sheath on only one leg. While personal preference and style play a role in this decision, there are a few practical reasons behind it:

1. Injury recovery

If a player is recovering from a leg injury or dealing with a specific condition on one leg, wearing a sleeve on that leg can provide additional support and promote healing. The compression can aid in reducing swelling and inflammation, contributing to a faster recovery process.

2. Muscle imbalance

In some cases, players may have a muscular imbalance between their legs, with one leg being stronger or more developed than the other. Wearing a sleeve on the less dominant leg can help promote muscle activation, stability, and symmetry, thus addressing the imbalance and enhancing overall performance.

Why do basketball players wear long sleeves?

Why do NBA players use arm sleeves?
Jaylen Brown (7) of the Boston Celtics dribbles against the Philadelphia 76ers during the first quarter in game six of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the 2023 NBA Playoffs at Wells Fargo Center on May 11, 2023, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Tim Nwachukwu
Source: Getty Images

Long sleeves in basketball have gained popularity over time, and many NBA players now use garments that cover their entire arms instead of just the forearm. The reasons for this choice are varied:

1. Enhanced muscle support

Long sleeves provide comprehensive coverage to the entire arm, offering additional support to the biceps, triceps, and shoulder muscles. The increased compression and stability contribute to reduced muscle oscillation and a decreased risk of injury.

2. Sun protection

When playing outdoor basketball, exposure to the sun becomes a concern, especially during daytime games. Long sleeves act as a form of sun protection, shielding the player's skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. This can help prevent sunburn and reduce the risk of long-term sun damage.

3. Style and aesthetics

Beyond functionality, long sleeves have become a fashionable trend in basketball. Athletes often personalise their sleeves with unique designs, team logos, or personal messages, adding a touch of individuality to their game attire.

The sight of basketball players donning sleeves on their arms and legs has become commonplace in the sport. Whether it is a compression sleeve, long sleeve, or a combination of arm and leg sleeves, these garments play a crucial role in the physical well-being and performance optimisation of basketball players at all levels of the game.

READ ALSO: Top 10 best ankle braces for basketball: Find out which is the best and why

Sports Brief has published an article about the best ankle braces for basketball. They are known to give the ankle joint more stability and support. As a result, it aids in avoiding injuries or, if one has already happened, guards against additional damage.

Even if a player has never sustained an ankle injury, purchasing an ankle brace will provide the best support and keep him safe. Click the above link to read more!

Kenneth Mwenda photo
Kenneth Mwenda
Kenneth Mwenda is a business and sports writer with over five years of experience. At Sportsbrief, he contributes to writing biographies and listicles.
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