If you’ve been watching baseball in recent years, you’ve certainly noticed that more and more players are wearing arm sleeves.
A lot of fans think that the reason why do baseball players wear arm sleeves is simply to make a fashion statement and look cool.
While that without a doubt plays a part, compressions sleeves have some real benefits for ballplayers.
Although you may find it hard to believe, arm sleeves are a product of extensive research and show just how much sports science has progressed when it comes to optimizing players’ performances and increasing their safety.
The MLB and other bodies governing baseball in the US have recognized how valuable this piece of equipment is and allowed its use at games.
However, there are some rules prescribing what type of sleeves can be used.
Why Do Baseball Players Wear Arm Sleeves?
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In the last decade, arm sleeves became an essential part of the gear for many players. As I already mentioned, they provide some useful benefits to those wearing them.
Arm sleeves help players feel better on the field, speed up the recovery, protect them and prevent injuries, and, many believe, improve their performance.
Below, I’ll go deeper into why do baseball players wear arm sleeves and how exactly they help them.
Improved Blood Circulation
Studies have shown that wearing compression sleeves increases blood flow during the games, but also in the post-game recovery.
The high compression contracts the arm blood vessels which forces the blood to circulate more efficiently.
When the arm muscles are tightened, the heart will pump out the blood at a higher rate.
And, of course, blood delivers precious oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.
This is the main reason why pitchers wear arm sleeves on their throwing arms. The arm comes under a lot of strain during several innings of pitching,
The increased blood circulation helps arm muscles recover faster, provides relief to joints and tendons, and makes the arm less sore.
Maintaining the Optimal Body Temperature
In order to produce optimal performance, players need to be warmed up and have an optimal body temperature.
However, sometimes, especially on particularly cold days, maintaining body and muscle temperature is not that easy.
Particularly if a player is at a position that doesn’t require constant involvement.
Players in the center field can wait for 10 or 15 minutes before the play comes their way.
And, when it does, they’re often required to deliver a hard throw to the home plate. Doing this when the arm is not properly warmed up can easily cause injury.
Arm sleeves provide an extra layer of protection that can maintain an optimal temperature.
They prevent muscles from getting stiff and cold, which can cause injuries such as pulls and stresses.
An additional benefit is that, on a warm day, an arm sleeve can pick up the extra sweat and keep the player’s arm dry.
Baseball players who use arm sleeves commonly experience faster recovery. Many of them keep the compression sleeves on even after the game is over.
The increased blood circulation can prevent swelling and inflammation that come as a result of repetitive motions that are characteristic for the sport, such as pitching and hitting.
This is especially important considering how long the baseball season is.
Over the course of the year, muscle soreness and sustained swelling can cause serious issues late in the season and result in missed games.
The compounding beneficial effects of wearing arm sleeves are often not obvious at first, but in the long run, they help keep the players healthy and in optimal form.
However, it’s important not to have arm sleeves too tight, as then they can have an adverse effect.
Too much compression can restrict blood flow which actually slows down the recovery process.
Besides the benefits described above, arm sleeves are also very useful as a protection against surface injuries, such as turf scratches and sunburns.
When diving for a catch or sliding into base, players can suffer burns from turf, dirt, or grass.
When this happens, the skin becomes red and irritated, making the player very uncomfortable.
Also, sleeves protect from cuts, scratches, and bumps which are a normal occurrence in a game.
As baseball is often played for hours under the scorching sun, usually with no shade, players are exposed to harmful UV rays.
Arm sleeves provide UV protection and prevent sunburns. Not to mention that prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer.
Some players wear arm sleeves with protection pads on the forearms or elbow areas. These pads proved extra protection against injuries when falling hard to the ground.
A serious elbow injury can often end a baseball player’s career.
Rules for Wearing Arm Sleeves in Baseball
Arm sleeves are allowed in the professional and youth leagues, but players still have to comply with certain rules.
White or gray arm sleeves are not allowed as they can reduce the batter’s ability to clearly see and track the ball.
Furthermore, color must be consistent with the rest of the uniform as it would otherwise distract the opposing players.
Rules also prescribe that the top of the arm sleeve can’t be visible. In the Little League, the arm sleeve must be completely covered with an undershirt.
Wearing a long-sleeve undershirt also allows adult players to wear any kind of arm sleeve they want as long as it’s not visible.
Many players, especially young ones, begin wearing arm sleeves because they think that it looks cool or because their favorite player is wearing it.
However, even though they may not be aware of it, compression arm sleeves are much more than a fashion fad.
They increase the safety of players, reduce recovery time, and provide more comfort while playing.
Arm sleeves are a very effective piece of baseball gear and help players go through the season injury-free and optimize their performance.
Still, when buying an arm sleeve, make sure you choose wisely.
They should adhere to the rule of the league you or your kid play in, or they’ll be useless.
Plus, to be useful, the arm sleeve should fit perfectly, a sleeve compressing too tightly may do more damage than good.
Likewise, a sleeve too loose will provide no benefits and just make you feel uncomfortable on the field.