Why Do Basketball Players Wear Sleeves?

For basketball players, wearing sleeves is all about comfort, performance and even style.

Sleeves provide compression around the shoulder area to help to stabilize muscles while reducing performance-robbing fatigue.  This compression also provides warmth for athletes who are playing in colder temperatures.  

A key feature of many sports’ sleeves is the Dry Fit technology — which allows sweat to escape off of the body more efficiently. Athletes wear sleeves for a variety of reasons, and performance enhancement is key among them.


Compression arm and leg gear to help be a better player.


The Benefit of Wearing Sleeves for Basketball Players:

For basketball players, wearing sleeves provides a number of benefits on and off the court.

Let’s go into more detail about those benefits…

1) To Provide Support & Relief from Fatigue

Some athletes have had surgery to repair arm problems due to constant play in basketball.  For professional athletes, these injuries can lead to a loss of income and while also affecting career longevity.  Even painful injuries such as tennis elbow occurs frequently in other sports involving repeated arm movement.

In addition to muscle fatigue and injury, the body can tire easily when performing quick movements time after time without the assistance of extra gear.  Players wear sleeves for this exact reason — to provide support and relief from the fatigue that can occur in muscles while doing constant and rigorous activities.

2) To Provide Compression & Warmth

Sleeves are not only popular among basketball players or other athletes, but also among non-athletes. They see them as optimizing performance during physical activities like weightlifting or hitting the treadmill at the gym.  

In fact, sleeves are more beneficial for weight lifting than lifting without any gear whatsoever.  This is due to the compression and warmth that sleeves provide to the arms and back areas.  Keeping these key muscle groups warm can prevent fatigue and injury during physical activity.

Lessons have been learned from tennis players. Similar to using tennis elbow bands to provide relief, athletes can benefit from the compression and warmth that sleeves provide to muscles as well as help prevent injury.  Tennis players have learned over the years to wear elbow bands on the elbow area — to provide compression to the forearm muscles. This helps treat tennis elbow by providing support to those tendons that become inflamed due to overuse. Similar methods have been found to be helpful in other sports. 

Sleeves also provide compression on the forearm and upper arm to protect any elbow injuries.

3) They are Lightweight While Providing a High Level of Comfort

Basketball players use compression sleeves in particular due to their light weight nature and high level of comfort. Compression sleeves can provide warmth while not restricting movement or weighing down the body. 

Many sports sleeves come with pre-sized holes for fingers in order to provide a customized fit.  Some sleeves also feature thumbholes; this allows the sleeve to pull double duty as both a compression sleeve and an additional layer of warmth.

4) To Enhance Performance

Many people in sports know how important it is for players to feel comfortable on the court. And therefore will spare no expense to design high-quality gear that not only provides comfort but also enhances performance. 

Sometimes it is difficult for players to find the motivation to exercise, especially during basketball season when their time outside of practice is limited. This lack of physical fitness could put athletes at a higher risk for injury due to muscle fatigue throughout the season. 

So wearing properly fitted sleeves does help to reduce the risk of injury, both in a game and during regular physical activity.

5) To Provide an Additional Layer

Because basketball players wear sleeves underneath their uniforms, they are able to take advantage of any additional compression benefits while at the same time appearing fashionable. It can also help absorb some impact from collisions.

Leagues typically enforce a minimum requirement of sportswear to be worn by all players. This can lead to a large amount of bulky unattractive clothing underneath uniforms. 

In addition to compression effects and warmth, sleeves provide an additional layer that players can easily hide from view.

In order to perform their best on the court, players look to any way of gaining an edge, including wearing custom sleeves designed for improved performance.  

While there is no guarantee that sleeves will provide the same benefits as they would on a hulking NFL lineman or heavyweight boxer, basketball players do find them beneficial.  Additionally, many non-basketball athletes see great benefits from using gear made for basketball players

Can Non-Basketball Athletes also Wear Sleeves?

Of course — and many do. 

Basketball is a sport requiring extended strength, endurance and agility.  Regardless of whether they’re professional players or not, many people who play may follow a rigorous exercise routine in order to get the most out of their performance on the court. 

Both professional and amateur athletes have been wearing compression sleeves for decades to help reduce the risk of injury and fatigue.  In fact, everyone from football players to swimmers wear sleeves as part of their workout routine or as an additional layer to help stay warm.

Many companies have stepped up their game in terms of creating aesthetically pleasing yet functional gear. This gear will not only help improve performance, but also provide the all-important level of comfort that players seek. 

It is important to note however, that sleeves are not meant as a replacement for regular physical activity or exercise.  Players should always warm up before using compression sleeves. And they should also do their best to maintain an active lifestyle outside of basketball.

Basketball Sleeve Material

Many basketball companies use special materials for sleeves designed specifically for enhancing performance.  The manufacturers make them out of a number of different fabrics. But all basketball sleeves must meet certain requirements so they are useful to athletes.  

Some examples include anti-odor and moisture-wicking materials that help keep players dry and comfortable throughout the game.

The common material for basketball sleeves is nylon due to its comfort and breathability.  Nylon also provides the benefit of allowing colors to be dyed very vibrantly, making any design possible.  Compression sleeves are necessary because they provide support without inhibiting the movement of the arms during gameplay.  


Many basketball players wear compression sleeves. Because they provide benefits such as warmth and protection, which can be especially useful during a long and strenuous season.  It is also important to note that these benefits will only remain significant if the player remains physically active outside of games and practices; simply wearing sleeves is not enough. In addition, it is important that the sleeves fit properly and remain in place throughout a game.