Why Do Basketball Players Wear Leg Sleeves? Because Of 4 Reasons

Written By on November 29, 2022 — Medically Reviewed By Mitch Torres (PT)

Written by on — Medically Reviewed By: Mitch Torres (PT)

The main reason why basketball players wear leg sleeves is because of sports performance. It can help with pain and inflammation while giving a competitive advantage.

While some of the reasons behind it come from facts, others involve a bit of superstition. But as long as it works for the athlete, wearing a leg sleeve can’t hurt.

We’ll discuss all about it below. Tap on the links below to get started:

4 reasons why basketball players wear leg sleeves knee sleeves

The most common reasons why some of your favourite NBA players wear sleeves include:

1) Could prevent painful lower leg injuries

Research shows that wearing a leg sleeve helps enhance our joint position sense, even when we’re fatigued. (1)



This can provide a competitive advantage in the middle of a game. Keeping your balance is key to avoiding getting hurt in a fast-moving game like basketball.

The boost the leg sleeve provides can also help correct our joint position during awkward landings, decreasing the risk of injury.

2) May help reduce knee pain

The compression provided by leg sleeves can reduce joint pain, although it isn’t fully understood why this happens. (2)

But some players take advantage of this to mask lingering knee issues. This in turn can help them keep on playing, which can be necessary during basketball season.

It’s a temporary solution, though. For a permanent fix, proper medical treatment is still the way to go.

Related: Common knee injuries in basketball.

3) Boosts recovery

Compressive clothing also promotes blood flow. This can reduce muscle soreness post-game and facilitate healing afterwards. (3)

This may be why most athletes wearing leg sleeves during the game keep them on once it’s finished, while cooling down.

4) Gives a competitive advantage

If an athlete believes a leg sleeve will help them succeed, they’ll wear it. Even if there’s no rhyme or reason behind it.

As weird as it seems, research shows that this kind of superstitious behavior can help a player gain more confidence to win games. (4)

What about basketball players who wear one-leg sleeves?

It’s hard to know, as there are many reasons behind this. The most common being:

Adding more joint support to the side you favor the most.

Notice on which leg you pivot and jump from a lay-up if you’re a right-hander. More often than not, it’ll be your left leg doing most of the work.

This may come out of habit or just a natural way to keep your balance. Whichever it may be, it makes sense to keep your dominant leg well-protected each game.

As a fashion statement.

Even in an NBA game, players benefit from having a distinct on-court style. It makes them stand out from the rest and boosts confidence.

Basically, if you look and feel good, then most likely you’ll also play good basketball.

How to choose the proper leg sleeve for basketball

If you want to wear a leg sleeve, make sure it fits the following criteria:

  • It allows a full range of movement without sacrificing comfort.
  • Has moisture-wicking and breathable fabric – it shouldn’t get heavy with sweat.
  • It’s durable enough to withstand the demands of the sport.

Also, some compression sleeves have padding on the knees. This helps prevent bruises, cuts, and scrape wounds if you ever fall hard on the court.

However, some of us find it a bit uncomfortable to have the entire leg wrapped in a compression garment. A knee sleeve can provide similar benefits while being much more breathable and comfortable.

This can help: Best knee garments for basketball players.

Other types of compression gear basketball players wear

Aside from knee sleeves, some of the more common sports apparel that athletes use include:

Arm sleeve

This is typically worn to keep your shooting arm warm. It also helps wick away sweat that could drip down to your hand and mess up your shot. Some wore arm sleeves on their off-hand to prevent getting scratches from pesky defenders.

Compression leggings

Basketball players wear leggings as a way to accelerate their recovery and reduce muscle soreness. (5)

Unlike boxers and briefs, most sports leggings are breathable and have moisture-wicking properties. They’re built to keep the more important parts of your body cool and dry throughout the game.

FAQs

Why do NBA players wear knee sleeves?

NBA basketball players wear knee sleeves to reduce joint pain and inflammation, as well as to prevent skin bruises.

Do knee sleeves improve performance?

Knee sleeves could improve performance by keeping your joints warm and potentially reduce post-game muscle soreness.

Do knee sleeves work for basketball?

Knee sleeves can work for basketball players to add more joint support and avoid skin lacerations during hard falls.

Conclusion: Why do basketball players wear leg sleeves?

Basketball players wear leg sleeves because they believe it can help them play better. Whether because it reduces pain and swelling, or boosts their confidence.

Whatever the reason, leg sleeves are an effective garment for most basketball players. Follow the recommendations above if you want to get yours!

Resources

  1. Tiggelen, Damien Van et al. “The effects of a neoprene knee sleeve on subjects with a poor versus good joint position sense subjected to an isokinetic fatigue protocol.” Clinical journal of sport medicine : official journal of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine vol. 18,3 (2008): 259-65. DOI: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31816d78c1
  2. Cudejko, Tomasz et al. “The immediate effect of a soft knee brace on pain, activity limitations, self-reported knee instability, and self-reported knee confidence in patients with knee osteoarthritis.” Arthritis research & therapy vol. 19,1 260. 1 Dec. 2017, DOI: 10.1186/s13075-017-1456-0
  3. Weakley, Jonathon et al. “Putting the Squeeze on Compression Garments: Current Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research: A Systematic Scoping Review.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 52,5 (2022): 1141-1160. DOI: 10.1007/s40279-021-01604-9
  4. Dömötör, Zsuzsanna et al. “Superstitious behavior in sport: A literature review.” Scandinavian journal of psychology vol. 57,4 (2016): 368-82. DOI: 10.1111/sjop.12301
  5. Hettchen, Michael et al. “Effects of Compression Tights on Recovery Parameters after Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage: A Randomized Controlled Crossover Study.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM vol. 2019 5698460. 8 Jan. 2019, doi: 10.1155/2019/5698460
Author
Paolo Sarmiento (PT)
Paolo is a physical therapist, educator and fitness enthusiast. He shares his knowledge and experience in helping people deal with health issues, especially with the knee. As health-conscious as he can be, he enjoys long bicycle rides, early morning runs, and a good slice of pizza with extra pepperoni.