Why Do Basketball Players Wear Leggings?

Table of Contents

Basketball players started out wearing only their jerseys, shoes, and a few essential accessories to games. But in recent times, they have also made a habit of wearing short or full tights – also called compression shorts alongside headbands, armbands and, even sleeves. Perhaps the most curious materials out of these accessories are the sleeves and compression shorts. But we aren’t talking sleeves today. Instead, we’ll be seeing why tights matter to basketball players.

With the increased usage of compression shorts comes the common question of why basketball players wear tights. There have been different speculations about the reasons. Could it be that it’s only a fashion trend, especially since it looks good on most players? Could it be that the compression tights actually enhance the players’ performance? Or are there other benefits to wearing it? Below you will find out some core reasons behind why do basketball players wear tights during games.

Compression tights do the following:

They Support Muscles and Assist in Recovery

Professional basketball players are known to go through daily physical training and exercises to stay fit even when they don’t have an upcoming game. In addition to training, some NBA players have to play at least three games per week in a season, and such sustained stress could adversely affect their muscles over time. 

It is common to feel some muscle fever, also known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), especially after physical strain. However, this can be alleviated with the use of compression tights.

Since muscles undergo micro-tears when strained, tights can be used to tone down the resulting Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). As a result, even after a rigorous game on the court, the muscles can recover in good time, and players can be fit enough to perform at their best.

The tights also support the thigh and leg muscles and add pressure to keep them steady and reduce vibrations. This has proven to help against muscle oscillation, thereby reducing muscle soreness. Also, the support tights provide makes players feel comfortable as they run around the basketball court.

They Protect Against Ailments and Prevent Injuries

As you may have known, compression tights keep muscles in their right place and shape, thereby reducing the risk of strains, sprains, and other similar ailments. You should also know that there are types of compression tights different from the single-layered ones worn by some players.

This particular tight type is padded at the right points to ensure players’ safety. It is perfect for those who easily crash the boards and others prone to bruises and bumps. They provide a barrier between your skin and the basketball court, saving you from a lot of painful rubs and burns. This is why some NBA players wear tights with honeycomb padding, shielding their knees, hips, and other sensitive body parts. They come in handy if you get knocked down.

Especially in contact sports, tights prove to be very beneficial against impact injuries from hard falls. When some players dive for the ball, they make harsh contact and are liable to burns. Fortunately, padded compression tights can help with its cushion to make the fall safe, with little or no injury sustained.

Although injuries can still occur with padded compression shorts, the risks of sustaining one are drastically reduced. It is, therefore, safer and more advisable to have the shorts on during games.

Under Armour Men's HeatGear® Armour Compression Leggings LG...

They Increase Blood Flow and Keep Body/Muscles Warm

This is one of the most critical reasons why NBA players wear tights, or why basketball players should consider wearing one in preparation for and during games. Some researchers at the University of Regensburg, Germany, have discovered that compression tights have significantly helped increase players’ blood flow to the arteries.

The benefit of increased blood flow is that the heart can conveniently provide blood rich in oxygen to the limbs in no time. And when this is done, the body and internal organs function at their best, and healthy cell growth is promoted. Besides, when your blood flow increases, it automatically decreases swelling. In the long term, it gives your body the ability to fight off infections and stay physically fit and uncompromised.

Moreover, there is a condition called Deep vein thrombosis, where the blood clots in the veins. This dangerous condition is very common to the legs and lower thighs and can be prevented by wearing compression pants. When the blood flows well, the swelling caused by deep vein thrombosis will also be avoided, and the resulting pains will be reduced. This is why compression pants are highly recommended for players suffering from this condition.

Also, compression tights keep the muscles warm by maintaining your temperature. This, in turn, encourages proper blood flow and prevents muscle tightness. Since the stretches and warm-up players do before a game is to avoid muscle tightness, compression pants help keep the leg muscles in tip-top condition for a long time. They also do this by trapping warmth within the players’ thighs in colder seasons.

SILKWORLD Men's Thermal Compression Pants 1~2 Pack Athletic...

They Help In Managing Sweat

While playing basketball, sweating is non-negotiable. In fact, there is almost no way you would actively play in a game and not be drenched in sweat. It is expected since every game involves so much running and jumping. Sweating profusely while the game is on never gives the player the best of feelings, and this is where compression tights come into play.

Tights are made with light materials (mostly polyester or nylon) that are breathable. These materials are quick in wicking away moisture from the skin to the shorts. When this happens, the sweat will evaporate, and the tights will dry up. It will also make you smell relatively fresh.

The importance of managing sweat is pronounced when you think of how sweating is your body’s response to heat and the need to cool down. If your lower body temperature doesn’t cool down enough, the muscles may tighten. And as said earlier, muscle tightening could be dangerous. On the whole, tightened muscles reduce a player’s performance. And when a sudden strain is applied to such muscles, an unpleasant injury is inevitable.

They Look Fashionable

Yeah, you probably guessed this one already. We all know fashion has also permeated the world of sports so much. To say players wear tights solely because of health and safety benefits is like suggesting that people watch movies only to educate themselves. Many players wear compression tights because they look good and fit well, and they are fast becoming a fashion trend.

It’s now common to find NBA players rocking colorful tights, matching or contrasting them with their uniforms’ primary colors. Some researchers have claimed that looking good has a way of making a person feel good and confident while publicly engaging in an activity. This is true for basketball players, too. They believe that they look good in tights, and we can’t fault that notion, can we?

They Make Players Look and Feel Smarter

This, no matter how unimportant it sounds, is one of the reasons why there are tights for basketball players. It is common knowledge that basketball uniforms are baggy and may make the body feel loose. But with compression tights, everything feels smart and compact in the lower body, and there is no reason to feel overly self-conscious and insecure. Alongside this, the compression clothing offers some level of comfort.

You will agree that with baggy uniforms, there are chances of flashing intimate body parts if care is not taken. This is prevented with the use of compression tights. The tights help in maintaining some modesty, especially when performing some highly exposing moves before an audience. You never have to worry about what people see or don’t see. In a way, this boosts a player’s confidence, and in the long run, affects the player’s output positively.

Final Thoughts

Now you should have fully understood why do basketball players wear tights during games and training, plus the benefits attached to doing so. For persons who ask if it is critical or compulsory to wear compression pants in every single match, well, it is not. However, it is good to wear them as often as is convenient and needful.

You should also note that compression tights will not give you extra abilities or superpowers. They can support and protect your muscles, increase your blood flow, keep you warm, make you look good and smart, absorb your sweat, etc. 

And yes, compression shorts can also be a lifesaver if your thighs usually chafe while exercising or training. The shorts will reduce the rate at which the skins on both thighs rub over each other, thereby preventing irritation. But there will be no superpowers gained.

We hope you found this article relevant and helpful in answering your questions about compression tights. If there are other types of gear you know NBA players like to wear during basketball games, you may drop them in the comments. And maybe you wear compression pants to play basketball too. Don’t hesitate to share your experience with us!

Justin D. Johnson
Justin D. Johnson
Justin is a PhD student at Stanford University and has been a basketball youth coach for over ten years. He is passionate about sports, cinema, astronomy, and sharing knowledge.