Stockings for performance sports – under pressure to higher performance? – Compression stockings on the test bench

According to the trend is before the trend: At first it was only the brand that amateurs took over from professionals; then the complete equipment followed. In the meantime, even amateur athletes go one step further – by resorting to performance-enhancing tools.

Compression stockings are the last cry when it comes to fitness equipment. Is this fashionable firlefanz or does it bring more than squeamish glances?

Sense and nonsense of special clothing

Admittedly, special equipment is essential for some sports. When it comes to the protection of life and health, laypeople are welcome to use the equipment of the “big ones” and choose professional equipment items. Riding, climbing or playing hockey can be fatal without head protection – and for many other disciplines, protector duty is increasingly discussed more intensively.

But it is not only dangerous situations that require special equipment. In some sports, certain movements become possible only when active people wear special garments. Football shoes with studs or narrow-cut speedsuits are the best examples of special equipment, without which partout is not possible.

There are also pieces of equipment that make the sport easier or more enjoyable. In Breeches it sits much more comfortably on the horse than in tight-fitting jeans and a temperature-balancing functional shirt is not only comfortable,but can even have a performance-enhancing effect.

Finally, there is the need to demonstrate group affiliation. Training in the jersey of your favourite club or identifying yourself as a “rider girl” can be unifying and increase the fun of the sport many times over. The whole thing is intensified by uniformly designed outfits and / or the choice of a particular brand.

The desired benefit of compression stockings

So much for the need to wear special sportswear. But how do compression stockings fit into this image? They do not serve protection or convenience and are neither necessary nor attractive. So what entices athletes of all stripes to choose this accessory? And how – all around the world – did it even find its way into the sports departments?

The original use of compression stockings provides answers to this question. They came from the equipment of spacemen and were actually used to relieve the cardiovascular system in microgravity. Their associated benefits quickly spread around and made compression stockings a common prophylaxis and therapy agent.

In earthly use, they are used to prevent thrombosis and support blood circulation in existing vein diseases. In order to be able to do this, compression stockings are tightly attached to the lower leg and thus exert a certain pressure. It makes it easier to transport the blood to the heart and better enrich it with oxygen. In addition, the stockings prevent liquid deposition by compressing tissue layers.

Effects that are used both preventively and therapeutically. Their best-known use is compression stockings on long-haul trips, bedridden, during pregnancy and in patients with vein weakness, varicose veins, etc.

However, they must not be confused with support stockings or even equated. Medically relevant compression goods are much more densely woven, always worked seamlessly and both longitudinally and transversely elastic. Their production is carried out according to established standards and is subject to regular independent testing.

From these properties or claims results a high effectiveness on the entire lower leg. The compression described above not only affects blood circulation and oxygen supply – but also stabilizes the muscles, joints and tendons. This allows the stockings to prevent injuries and promote regeneration.

In addition, compression stockings boost metabolism and thus lead to accelerated lactate degradation. This protects the muscles from acidification, prevents signs of fatigue and helps to prevent muscle soreness.

Last but not least, the tight-fitting leg dresses also score points with their seamless workmanship. Where nothing presses, neither discomfort nor bubbles can arise – and do not have a negative influence on athletic performance.

Scientific opinion on compression stockings

These effects have since been examined several times. Scientists from various institutions tested the effect of compression stockings on subjects and evaluated the results. They came to surprising conclusions:

A study at the Leipzig [i]Institute for Applied Training Science, Department of Sports Medicine[/i] has shown that the pressure exerted has a positive effect on the vein function, blood circulation and oxygenation.

According to the findings of the [i]Hohenstein Institute[/i] in Bönningheim, Baden-Württemberg, compression stockings lead to accelerated muscle recovery. They reduce muscle pain or swelling caused by stress and accelerate the restoration of the body’s own bounce.

Critics counter that compression stockings have a placebo effect at best and that the performance increase or the shortened recovery phase is due to mere imagination. But even if so, the textiles serve their purpose – and are much more legitimate than other aids.

On top of that, there is hardly any reason NOT to wear the stockings. They can be designed by almost all people without hesitation and find numerous applications beyond the sport.

  • Venous diseases,
  • connective tissue weakness,
  • poor or deficient blood circulation,
  • thrombosis risk as it is due to taking medication, and
  • Washed legs during pregnancy

are the most famous of them.

Tips for choosing compression stockings

What kind of compression stockings is in question for you is a matter of strain and personal taste. To determine whether there is a medical indication, you can undergo a so-called phlebography. A contrast agent makes the blood flow in the veins visible – and thus indicates possible disturbances or impairments. If there’s a good reason to wear compression stockings, you’ll even get them on prescription.

The selection of corresponding products ranges from classic knee socks to holderless models to tights. For people with functional problems in the thigh, there are special cuffs that work exclusively in this area.

It is important for the purchase that you have your legs measured – because only exactly sitting compression stockings lead to the desired effect. If they are too tight, wearing causes pain; if they are too far, the effect on muscles, joints and blood circulation is absent. Since the legs always swell a bit during the day, you should set the survey date in the specialist trade as much as possible to the morning hours.

Another important criterion for the selection of compression stockings, tights or cuffs is strength. Depending on the model, the fabric tightens your legs differently – and this has an effect on the effect of the goods.

Tips for using compression stockings

For moderate loads such as sitting in the office or airplane or hiking and Nordic walking, a stocking with a slight compression effect is sufficient; but the more the sport splaces your body,the higher the pressure should be. For disciplines that require a lot of stamina or strength, high compression strengths with correspondingly strong performance are recommended.

They can also be effective when a change between rest and movement phases or between different sports is necessary. Examples of this are cross-country skiing and goal shooting in biathlon or the sequence of swimming, cycling and running in triathlon.

But even where actors perform many short, violent actions, stronger compression stockings fulfil their purpose – such as sprinting across the football field or kicking Thai boxing.

In the case of simple, less stressful movement sequences, such performance-enhancing aids are superfluous. Cozy cycling with the family, two to three lanes in the swimming pool or relaxing yoga do not require compression stockings.

Under certain conditions, they are even completely prohibited. These include:

  • Circulatory disorders of the arteries
  • Heart or heart muscle weakness
  • Skin diseases with secretions or wetting eczema
  • Diabetes and associated polyneuropathy

As a patient with these or similar ailments, you must refrain from wearing compression stockings or imitate this trend with normal leg dresses.

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Photo by RUN 4 FFWPU from Pexels

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