2008, pp 319-328

Compression Garments: Evidence for their Physiological Effects (P208)

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Abstract

In fitness and leisure sports, compression clothing (e.g. tights, garments, stockings) has become popular with the need to minimise the stress of activity by improving physiological factors. The area of contact between textile material and human skin represents a complex parameter in which factors such as the deformational behaviour of fibrous material under pressure, surface hardness, and surface roughness play interactive and dependent roles. The nature of human skin surface morphology and bulk properties add further complexity. Early researches on compressive garments focused on increased venous blood flow due to the compression and its positive effects on venous thrombosis in post-operative patients. In healthy subjects, the compression stockings have been shown to increase cardiac output and stroke volume, suggesting that the venous return with the stockings was larger than without it. To date, improving venous return without causing physiological disorders is a major objective for product designers in the leisure sport sector. The favourable effects of compression clothing on the muscle pumping action of the cardiovascular system have led scientists to speculate whether increases in venous return could assist in the removal of blood lactate from exercising muscles. Actually, most of the studies suggest a distinct performance advantage to wearing compression tights during local and global dynamic exercise. Besides, the increased microcirculation provided by compressive garments may prevent post-exercise damage and pain by reducing oedema and helping promote recovery post training and competition. Future garment construction and/or areas of the body targeted may need to reflect the specific biological mechanisms and demands of the sport for which it’s intended.