In high level sport, there are many instances where there just ins’t enough recovery time between training sessions or competitions. Therefore, coaches will often employ recovery strategies with their athletes in effort to minimize perceptions of soreness and fatigue and limit fatigue-related decrements in performance. Hydrotherapy is one of the most commonly prescribed recovery modalities, but requires access to hot or cold tubs. An alternative recovery strategy gaining popularity among teams is the use of compression garments on the lower extremity. It’s still not quite clear how compression garments may enhance recovery, but it’s thought that the compression enhances blood flow and reduces swelling by increasing lymphatic drainage and lowering the osmotic gradient brought on by muscle damage. While the research has shown mixed results regarding the effectiveness of compression for enhancing recovery, some suggest that the amount of compression makes a difference.
A new study published ahead of print in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance tested the effects of different compression intensities on recovery in active participants. A total of 45 volunteers were randomly and evenly divided into a low compression (8.1 ± 1.3 mmHg at the thigh and 14.8 ± 2.1 mmHg at the calf), high compression (14.8 ± 2.2 mmHg at the thigh and 24.3 ± 3.7 mmHg at the calf) or control group (fake ultrasound). Baseline vertical jump, maximal voluntary quadriceps contraction, perceptions of muscle soreness and blood markers of muscle damage and inflammation were obtained. The subjects then performed a muscle-damaging protocol which included 100 total reps of drop-jumps from a 60 cm box. At 24, 48 and 72 hours post-exercise, all perceptual, performance and biochemical markers were again evaluated and compared among groups.
The results showed that the higher compression level was more effective for minimizing decrements in perceptual and performance markers. Maximal voluntary strength and vertical jump height tended to show smaller reductions and subsequently recover towards baseline levels faster than the lower compression group and control. Soreness ratings were also lower for the higher compression group at each time-point following the muscle damaging exercise protocol. These results provide strong evidence that lower-body compression garments can enhance recovery and that it’s effectiveness likely depends on the level of compression. Compression garments may therefore be worth looking into for coaches looking for effective recovery tools for their players.
Hill, J., Howatson, G., van Someren, K., Gaze, D., Legg, H., Lineham, J., & Pedlar, C. (2017). The effects of compression garment pressure on recovery from strenuous exercise. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 1-22.