The effect of compression socks on balance skills – randomized controlled trial

Using compression materials to enhance physical performance is rapidly becoming the hottest topic in today’s sports and exercise, which is why sportswear companies are starting to create modified versions of compression garments that are being used for medicinal purposes. In addition to improved injury prevention (Bernhardt & Anderson 2005; Cameron et al. 2008), decreased amount of lactate in the bloodstream (Kraemer et al. 1998: Bringard et al. 2006; Sperlich et al. 2013) and enhanced performance in high-intensity exercises, studies have suggested that compression garments may improve the kinesthetic sense (McNair et al. 1996; Birmingham et al. 1998; Kraemer et al. 1998; McNair & Heine 1999; Birmingham et al. 2000; Bringard et al. 2006; Cameron et al. 2008; Pearce et al. 2009; Michael et al. 2014). The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effect of compression socks on motor learning, specifically balance and agility after an 8-week training program. 

The participants were a group of 49 males and females between the ages of 18-75. They were non-athletic adults who were matched by experience with physical activity and sport as well as their age. A preliminary survey was done to ensure that the subjects’ medical conditions were good. The subjects were divided into two equal groups, of which the experimental group used compression socks (Zeropoint Oy) during an 8 week training period. The materials consisted of 20% Nylon, 20% Lycra and 60% Coolmax. The socks that were used were the Intense Compression Socks, which had a compressive effect of 20-30mmHg. The socks were designed to have a graduated compression that was tighter around the ankle while decreasing the compression closer to the knee. The other test product was a running compression sock from Pro Touch that was made from 98% Polyamide and 2% Elastane, which did not have the same medically compressive effect.

Both of the groups participated in the same 8-week training program. The baseline measurements determined how the two groups were divided. The groups had to be at a similar level of balance. The balance was measured by a force plate: one legged stance with eyes both open and closed for 30 seconds. The number of people in the both test and control groups were 15-20. The program consisted 8 weeks/2 one hour sessions per week. The progression was measured by pre- and post- training tests. The experimental group had a significant reduction (p= ,009) in peak balance displacement during a fast anterior perturbation, which means that the subjects were able to retain better balance during a fast perturbation. The experimental group also had a significant reduction (p= ,031) in peak balance displacement during a slow anterior perturbation, where the center of pressure displacement was decreased. The evidence showing the effects of a balance training period paired with the use of compression materials improved the participants’ balance slightly, but not statistically significantly. It was, however, concluded that combining compression socks with a balance exercise program may yield to better results than without compression socks.

 

 

References:

Bernhardt, T. & Anderson, G.S. 2005. Influence of moderate prophylactic compression on sport performance. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 19 (2), 292–297.

Birmingham, T.B., Inglis, J.T., Kramer, J.F. & Vandervoort, A.A. 2000. Effect of a neoprene sleeve on knee joint kinesthesis: influence of different testing procedures. Official Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine 32 (2), 304–308.

Birmingham, T.B., Kramer, J.F., Inglis, J.T., Mooney, C.A., Murray, L.J., Fowler, P.J. & Kirkland, S. 1998. Effect of a neoprene sleeve on knee joint position sense during sitting open kinetic chain and supine closed kinetic chain tests. American Journal of Sports Medicine 26 (4), 562–566.

Bringard, A., Perrey, S. & Belluye, N. 2006. Aerobic energy cost and sensation responses during submaximal running exercise – positive effects of wearing compression tights. International Journal of Sports Medicine (27), 373–378.

Cameron, M.L., Adams, R.D. & Maher, C.G. 2008. The effect of neoprene shorts on leg proprioception in Australian football players. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (11), 345—352.

Kraemer, W.J., Bush, J.A., Newton, R.U., Duncan, N.D., Volek, J.S., Denegar, C.R., Canavan, P., Johnston, J. & Putukian, M. 1998. Influence of a compression garment on repetitive power output production before and after different types of muscle fatigue. Sports Medicine, Training and Rehabilitation 8 (2), 163–184.

McNair, P.J. & Heine, P. 1999. Trunk proprioception: enhancement through lumbar bracing. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 80 (1), 96–99.

McNair, P.J., Stanley, S.N. & Strauss, G.R. 1996. Knee bracing: Effect on proprioception. Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 77 (3), 287–289.

Michael, J.S., Dogramaci, S.N., Steel, K.A. & Graham, K.S. 2014. What is the effect of compression garments on a balance task in female athletes? Gait & Posture 39 (2), 804- 809.

Pearce, A.J., Kidgell, J.K., Grikepelis, L.A. & Carlson, J.S. 2009. Wearing a sports compression garment on the performance on visuomotor tracking following eccentric exercise: A pilot study. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport 12 (4), 500-502.

Sperlich, B., Born, D.P., Kaskinoro, K., Kalliokoski, K.K. & Laaksonen, M. 2013. Squeezing the muscle: compression clothing and muscle metabolism during recovery from high intensity exercise. PLoS ONE 8 (4), 1-7. Cited on 13.11.2013.

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