Putting the Squeeze on Compression Garments: Current Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research: A Systematic Scoping Review

Weakley, J. et al. Putting the Squeeze on Compression Garments: Current Evidence and Recommendations for Future Research: A Systematic Scoping Review. Sports Med 52, 1141–1160 (2022).

Abstract

Background Compression garments are regularly worn during exercise to improve physical performance, mitigate fatigue responses, and enhance recovery. However, evidence for their efficacy is varied and the methodological approaches and outcome measures used within the scientific literature are diverse.
Objectives The aim of this scoping review is to provide a comprehensive overview of the effects of compression garments on commonly assessed outcome measures in response to exercise, including: performance, biomechanical, neuromuscular, cardiovascular, cardiorespiratory, muscle damage, thermoregulatory, and perceptual responses.

Methods: A systematic search of electronic databases (PubMed, SPORTDiscus, Web of Science and CINAHL Complete) was performed from the earliest record to 27 December, 2020.
Results In total, 183 studies were identified for qualitative analysis with the following breakdown: performance and muscle function outcomes: 115 studies (63%), biomechanical and neuromuscular: 59 (32%), blood and saliva markers: 85 (46%), cardiovascular: 76 (42%), cardiorespiratory: 39 (21%), thermoregulatory: 19 (10%) and perceptual: 98 (54%). Approximately 85% (n = 156) of studies were published between 2010 and 2020.

Conclusions: Evidence is equivocal as to whether garments improve physical performance, with little evidence supporting improvements in kinetic or kinematic outcomes. Compression likely reduces muscle oscillatory properties and has a positive effect on sensorimotor systems. Findings suggest potential increases in arterial blood flow; however, it is unlikely that compression garments meaningfully change metabolic responses, blood pressure, heart rate, and cardiorespiratory measures. Compression garments increase localised skin temperature and may reduce perceptions of muscle soreness and pain following exercise; however, rating of perceived exertion during exercise is likely unchanged. It is unlikely that compression garments negatively influence exercise-related outcomes. Future research should assess wearer belief in compression garments, report pressure ranges at multiple sites as well as garment material, and finally examine individual responses and varying compression coverage areas.


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