What's the Deal with Shooting Sleeves?

Got a question about the science of sports? Let your expert help you pump up your sports IQ!

This month’s question comes from 10-year-old Adrian from New York: Why do basketball players wear shooting sleeves?

The Prof Says: Blame Allen Iverson. In January 2001, suffering from inflammation in his right elbow, the former All-Star started wearing a compression bandage. For the rest of his career, Iverson kept the sleeve. He sparked a trend, and now almost everyone seems to wear shooting sleeves.

But does wearing one really help? Yes and no, according to Dr. Anthony Luke, director of the Human Performance Center at the University of California, San Francisco. "It doesn't help during performance," he says, "but having compression can help you recover."

Compressing limbs improves circulation by speeding up the return of blood to the heart. This increases the delivery of oxygen to muscles and helps flush waste products away.

The increase in blood flow is too small to affect athletic performance during a game. But wearing the sleeves between games can decrease both muscle soreness and swelling. That helps athletes bounce back quicker.

Do you have a question for the Professor? Ask it at sikids.com/professor!

Photo: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images (James); Illustration: Mark Matcho

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