Do compression garments improve athletic performance?

For athletes looking for a competitive edge, a surprising strategy is on the rise: compression garments. While they’re typically used to help patients with vascular problems, whether they can actually help improve an athlete’s performance remains unclear.

“The thought is by using these compression stockings, compression garments, that potentially they can improve blood flow and ultimately improve performance,” Dr. Dennis Cardone of New York University Langone Medical Center told “For athletes, it’s all about performance and getting that edge.”

However, a study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance found that while compression garments didn’t significantly enhance performance, they didn’t make the athlete perform worse either. The study also found that an athlete using a compression garment perceived that their body was in a better position to perform, compared to those who played without one.

“One benefit potentially that they can think about is something called proprioception,” Cardone said.  “When there’s some type of brace on a region of the body, the brain is better communicating with that region of the body, and this is what we call improving proprioception,” Cardone said.

Dr. Phil Hartmann, a physical therapist at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center also agreed that the mental aspect of wearing a compression garment can benefit an athlete.

“So as these compression garments claim it increases the blood flow during exercise, those negative -- well potentially negative -- properties can be washed out sooner,” Hartmann told

While the jury is still out on whether compression garments can help every athlete improve their performance, Cardone believes it’s likely that elite athletes that benefit from using this type of gear.

More research is needed to investigate the effectiveness of compression garments, but for now many agree that there is not much to lose by using one, aside from the cost of purchase.