Why Do NBA Players Wear Arm Sleeves?

Whether you’re watching basketball at home or in person, you might have noticed some players wearing arm sleeves.

But, why do basketball players wear sleeves on their arms? Aside from looking pretty cool, arm sleeves serve a few purposes that can be beneficial to basketball players.

Here we’ll be explaining why basketball players wear sleeves, as well the benefits and some of the risks associated with them.

What is a Basketball Arm Sleeve?

A basketball sleeve, also known as a shooter sleeve, is an accessory that goes over a player’s arm, extending from the bicep to the wrist. Basketball sleeves are normally made out of nylon and spandex.

Why do Basketball Players Wear Sleeves on Their Arms?

why do nba players wear arm sleevesMost basketball players wear arm sleeves to keep their arm muscles warm, which helps prevent injury and soreness. Arm sleeves became popular among basketball players around 20 years ago, thanks to former NBA star Allen Iverson.

Iverson started wearing arm sleeves because he suffered from bursitis, which is a painful inflammation or irritation of a joint. In Iverson’s case, bursitis affected his elbow, which made playing basketball difficult.

Iverson’s doctor recommended he wear an arm sleeve to relieve some of the effects of his bursitis. The arm sleeve alleviated some of the pain from his bursitis, allowing him to play ball much more comfortably.

Many basketball fans started wearing arm sleeves after seeing Iverson wear them. Even after his injury recovered, Iverson continued to wear an arm sleeve during his games. Apparently, it was to cover up some tattoos he disliked!

Benefits of Basketball Arm Sleeves – What do Arm Sleeves Do?

What are the benefits of wearing a basketball arm sleeve? Here’s a brief breakdown of the advantages of arm sleeves.


Arm sleeves offer compression, which works by squeezing the blood vessels in your arms to open them forcefully. The compressed muscles allow for more oxygenated blood to reach them, effectively lowering your heart rate.

This helps you avoid swelling, muscle fatigue, and blood clots. Arm sleeves can also reduce recovery time and promote healing, helping you prevent injuries while playing ball.

Compression garments were found to lower blood lactate levels and blood pooling, according to a 1987 study. Both of these things can cause swelling, ultimately affecting your performance. When lactic acid builds up in your bloodstream during vigorous exercise, it can result in muscle soreness.

A Journal of Sports Science study from 2007 had a group of males wear compression garments during 10,000-time trials. It was discovered that muscle soreness was greatly decreased by wearing compression leg sleeves. The same benefit also applies to compression arm sleeves.


Arm sleeves help keep your muscles warm, allowing for more flexibility. Playing ball with stiff arms hampers your performance as you won’t be able to shoot effectively.

Flexible arms make shooting more precise and accurate. Additionally, if you’ve suffered an arm injury in the past, keeping your arm muscles warm can reduce the risk of hurting yourself a second time.

Pain Relief

Basketball arm sleeves can be great for relieving pain in your elbow joints and the soft tissues in your arm. Although this is largely due to the compressive qualities they provide, they also keep your elbow in place.

This light pressure can help reduce pain and prevent ailments like hyperextension and pulled muscles. Furthermore, arm sleeves can help protect your arm if you fall over or get shoved around during a game. The extra padding absorbs some of the impact so you’re less likely to hurt yourself.

Tattoo Coverage

Basketball arm sleeves can also be worn to cover up any tattoos that might be deemed inappropriate. If you didn’t already know, the NBA prohibits players from displaying commercial, promotional marks or logos on their body (including their hair) in matches that the NBA are not associated with.


Basketball is an intense sport and can involve quite a lot of physicality, including grabbing, shoving, and sometimes even slapping. If you’ve ever played ball, you probably know the type of injuries you can sustain during a match.

Wearing an arm sleeve offers a bit of cushioning, protecting you from bruises, scratches, etc.

Dry Arms

Some basketball players, particularly when playing defence, wear an arm sleeve to help reduce their sweat levels. When you’re sweating buckets, the ball will be harder to grip, which can bring down the accuracy of your shots.

An arm sleeve, especially one with sweat-wicking properties, can help keep you dry and cool, making shooting much easier and more precise.

On the flip side, if you’re tackled or shoved around by a sweaty opponent, an arm sleeve can act as a sort of buffer.


Alongside having health benefits, basketball arm sleeves look cool too! Wearing an arm sleeve makes you look stylish on the court, just like a professional NBA player. And if you exude confidence and feel comfortable, you’re more likely to perform better. It’s a win-win!

Can Basketball Arm Sleeves Be Dangerous?

Now that we’ve looked at the benefits of a basketball arm sleeve, you might be wondering whether there are any disadvantages to wearing them.

Can basketball arm sleeves be dangerous? There are some risks with using basketball arm sleeves, especially if you have some specific medical conditions.


The majority of compression arm sleeves are made out of nylon and spandex. If you have a sensitivity to either of these fabrics, wearing an arm sleeve could trigger an allergic reaction.


Using arm sleeves for long periods can cause cellulitis, which is an infection caused by bacteria of staph. If left untreated, cellulitis can progress to the skin tissues, causing fluid to build up. Wearing compression arm sleeves that are too tight can also make the infection worse.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Blood flow is restricted to your arms if you wear compression arm sleeves too tight or for lengthy periods. This can damage the nerves in your arms.

When Should You Avoid Wearing Basketball Arm Sleeves?

As long as you use arm sleeves correctly, there aren’t many risks with using them. However, if you suffer from certain medical illnesses, arm sleeves can pose a serious danger.

Congestive Heart Failure

When your heart becomes too weak to supply enough blood to your body, congestive heart failure occurs. Wearing compression sleeves and garments can make the condition worse as they push blood back to your already overloaded heart from your compressed arms or legs.

Acute Arm Ischemia

Restricted blood flow from your heart to your limb area can result in acute arm ischemia, particularly when your blood vessels are compressed in the position of your arms. Wearing compression sleeves that are too tight can break off the blood flow to your upper arms, causing pain in your forearms, neck, and elbows.

Additionally, pain in your arms and shoulder can signal myocardial ischemia.


Diabetes can cause multiple other health issues such as peripheral arterial disease. Although compression garments can improve arm and leg blood circulation, wearing tightly fitted compression fabrics can hinder the healing process and lead to blood clots.

Ischemic Sclerosis

If you wear compression garments for long periods or while you’re asleep, it can result in ischemic sclerosis, which is when your bone tissues die off. This disease occurs when a body part doesn’t get enough blood and oxygen to survive.

Basketball Arm Sleeves: FAQ

Which Basketball Players Have Worn Arm Sleeves?

As we mentioned earlier, Allen Iverson was the first basketball player to wear arm sleeves, and he’s the whole reason why they’re popular today. But aside from Iverson, many other basketball stars have been spotted wearing an arm sleeve.

These players include Ray Allen, LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Kobe Byrant, Paul George, Dwight Howard, Russell Westbrook, Vince Carter, John Wall, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, and Kyrie Irving.

Why Do Basketball Players Wear Leg Sleeves?

Some basketball players wear leg sleeves in addition to or instead of arm sleeves. Similar to arm sleeves, leg sleeves are often used as a preventative measure.

Leg sleeves improve blood flow in your legs, allowing for more oxygenated blood to reach your muscles. As your blood reaches other parts of your body, your heart rate decreases, enhancing your energy and performance.

Additionally, leg sleeves reduce the skeletal muscle vibrations during a match. This causes less muscle distress, which in turn results in less fatigue. Players are less likely to injure themselves and have a quicker recovery time.

Essentially, wearing leg sleeves during a match have the same benefits as wearing arm sleeves, except the advantages apply to your leg muscles.

Final Thoughts

As we’ve established, most basketball players wear sleeves to keep their arm muscles warm to help lessen the likelihood of injury and soreness. However, some players wear sleeves for aesthetic purposes, simply because they look professional!

Whatever the reason, arm sleeves can give you a serious advantage in your games, allowing you to perform even better. While there are a few risks tied to using arm sleeves, these mostly affect people with underlying health issues, so the pros definitely outweigh the cons!

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