Arm Compression Sleeves: Are they a Fashion Statement or Do they provide Health Benefits on the Field?

by Dave Dickerson – Zoned Pitching Instructor and 13u Head Coach

As a pitching instructor, I try to do as much research as I can to help develop young pitchers to be the best they can be. Whether that means making mechanical adjustments to their motion or explaining what slot their wrist needs to be in at the release of a pitch. Pitching in today's game has become a position of glory for that pitcher striving to get a "W" next to their name in the newspaper but also a position of injury with as many Tommy John surgeries that have happened in the past few years. Since 2012, there have been 113 Tommy John surgeries in MLB and counting.

As this blog post is not about Tommy John, there are measures pitchers and players can take in order to help them stay healthy. Are arm compression sleeves a solution to all the arm problems in today's game? The answer is not completely but they sure do help. Arm sleeves add compression to the forearm, bicep, triceps and key joints in the elbow to help promote blood flow and keep the arm warm. Most players don't realize what happens to their arm when they throw since throwing overhead is an unnatural motion. When a ball is thrown, there is what's called rotational acceleration of the arm and then the deceleration process happens after the ball is released. This is what causes soreness in the arm as the muscles in your rotator cuff get overstretched.

Whether you have a Nike, UnderArmour or Evoshield arm sleeve they all serve the same purpose. Arm sleeves have become a sort of fashion statement with new colors and camo patterns but they have an effective purpose behind them that not many players know about. The healing process in the arm begins as soon as the act of throwing is finished. Compression sleeves assist in the pivotal healing process to keep players on the field.

Major League Baseball has launched an experiment with a compression sleeve that has a computer chip implanted inside it that will calculate the workload of the UCL (Ulnar Collateral Ligament). Now, yes the sleeve serves its purpose of compressing the muscles but they are taking it to another level to help prevent more Tommy John surgeries. I believe arm sleeves have benefits for the pitcher or position player and just like icing your arm or trying on a pair of cleats, education needs to be given to the player on what works best for them.

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