New research published in the latest European Journal of Applied Physiology casts doubts on the physiological benefits of compression clothing – often used by cyclists to aid training – but has found an improvement in athletes’ perceived recovery.
Researchers in Australia tested eight highly trained field hockey players and measured blood lactate, inflammation levels and perceived recovery. The athletes were put through two match simulations, four weeks apart. After one simulation the players wore compression shorts, and after the other loose trousers, for 24 hours post exercise.
The researchers regularly blood tested the athletes for lactate and inflammation indictors, and noted that levels were “signifacantly elevated” after both matches. However, the compression shorts appeared to make little difference relative to the loose trousers.
Researchers also questioned the athletes on perceived recovery and noted a significant improvement, and reduced muscle soreness.
Compression clothing such as socks and shorts is a favourite of athletes because it's believed to aid recovery by boosting blood flow and flushing toxins out of hard-working muscles. Its physiological effectiveness has always been subject to debate.
Earlier this year, researchers from the Department of Sport Science at the University of Wuppertal, Germany, conducted a review of original academic research papers and found little improvement in athletic performance related to compression wear.