I used to have a teammate that always wore one arm sleeve for every game. Regardless of whether we were playing in colder weather in April or in the middle of a hot summer day in July, he always wore that one arm sleeve. As it turns out, there are a lot of other players who do the exact same thing. So I decided to do some research to find an answer to a question I had been wondering about – why do baseball players wear arm sleeves?
Baseball players mainly wear arm sleeves to prevent injuries and to assist with the recovery of their throwing arm. Additional benefits to baseball players include reduced burns from diving for a ball, preventing sunburns, and adding an extra layer of clothing during cold games.
If you’re a baseball player, you know that the right gear can make all the difference on the field. Arm sleeves are a great way to keep your arms protected from the sun and the elements, and they can also help to improve your game.
Before we dig deeper into how arm sleeves help baseball players, let’s clear one common misconception:
Baseball players wear undershirts all the time, and many teams consider these a part of their uniform. To some viewers, the sleeves of an undershirt look like arms sleeves, but these are not actually considered arm sleeves. Arm sleeves are a type of compression sleeve that is separate from other articles of clothing.
With that out of the way, let’s look at all of the reasons baseball players wear arm sleeves.
1) Arm Sleeves Keep Muscles Compressed, Ensuring Consistent Blood Flow
A baseball player uses their arms a lot during an average game, creating a demand for blood flow to the arms. But since they also use their legs and the rest of their body, blood is also needed elsewhere.
Compression sleeves are often worn to ensure the arms’ blood flow is consistent and not traded off when running. Without predictable blood flow, players might experience ‘noodle arms’ or ‘stiff arms.’ This can happen when a player isn’t wearing arm sleeves and is running too much, or the temperature is too low.
It is fair to say that healthy blood flow and its effects are one of the main reasons baseball players wear arm sleeves. If you play amateur baseball or are playing a one-off game, you might still need an arm sleeve, depending on how long your game lasts.
But on the other hand, I very rarely wear an arm sleeve and I haven’t had any issues because of the lack of an arm sleeve. Most players stay loose throughout the game by playing catch in-between innings when they take their position on the field. You can always try out an arm sleeve to see if you like it or not.
2) Arm Sleeves Help Pitchers Recover
For pitchers, speed and control are the name of the game. Pitching as fast as possible requires momentum and a yank in the throwing action that can result in an injured elbow (or triceps, or forearm, etc) or cause inflammation.
An arm sleeve helps reduce the inflammation players get from repeated throwing motions, which helps speed up recovery time.
The importance of an arm sleeve to a player depends on a pitcher’s preference. Aces (in college or professional baseball) might wear high-tech sleeves for maximum effect while some pitchers prefer not to wear an arm sleeve at all.
While the arm sleeve can be important for the health of a pitcher’s arm, it is not essential. It depends on the pitcher’s history with injuries and is often not required for amateur games. Some pitchers use it to help with recovery and some pitchers prefer to recover using other methods.
If you’re a pitcher, just remember that it’s probably illegal to be pitching while you’re wearing an arm sleeve. This rule can vary from league to league though, so it’s best to check the rules or check with an umpire to see if there are any rules against wearing an arm sleeve while pitching.
3) Protection From Sunburn
Baseball players who don’t want to wear an undershirt (and aren’t mandated to wear one) often get two compression sleeves to avoid sunburn on their arms.
It is important to wear sunscreen to avoid sunburn during daytime games, but there has been much debate about baseball players wearing sunscreen because some players combine sunscreen with rosin as a form of cheating.
Players are often fine even without an undershirt or arm sleeves as long as they wear sunscreen or play in the evenings.
Avoiding the sun isn’t as much a reason for wearing compression sleeves but a coincidental advantage of having one. It applies more to amateur baseball and high school games because MLB baseball is different. Many teams consider undershirts a part of their uniform.
4) Prevent Sweat From Trickling
When baseball players wear an arm sleeve, their sweat doesn’t trickle down their arms and onto their wrists. This would be a problem on the field because players need to be able to properly grip the ball to make a good throw.
Additionally, if a player doesn’t wear an undershirt that extends the length of their arms, an arm sleeve can be used to wipe their forehead.
Ideally, wearing a hat will take care of a lot of the sweat, but some players still find their arm sleeves useful for wiping their forehead from sweat. In fact, wearing a hat to help with sweat is one of the 7 reasons why baseball players wear hats.
Without an arm sleeve or any type of sleeve, a baseball player has to wipe their sweat with the back of their hand. This is commonly seen in youth baseball games and non-professional games. If you don’t wear an undershirt with sleeves, wearing an arm sleeve should be considered crucial for this reason alone.
5) Minimize Burns From Diving
When fielders dive during a baseball game, they often do so in a pose where one of their arms is touching the grass. Teams sometimes require undershirts to protect their players from “turf burn,” which happens because of friction with the ground.
An undershirt can be a fielder’s best friend because it minimizes the friction between the ground and the player’s arm when a player dives for a ball.
However, players have experienced burns even while wearing an undershirt or an arm sleeve. So while arm sleeves help reduce burns from diving, they may not completely prevent those burns.
6) Arm Sleeves Keep Players Warm on Cold Days
Baseball season generally starts in March and can extend as late as November, which means that some games are colder than other games.
In fact, the MLB regular season lasts 162 games, but players can play somewhere between 161 games and 213 games, depending on how well they perform and how well their team performs. Read more about how many baseball games are in a season.
Depending on where you live, arm sleeves can be used as an additional layer of clothing during those cold games.
7) Arm Sleeves Look Good With Uniforms
When it comes down to it, some arm sleeves just look good. A lot of baseball players care about fashion while they are on the field and picking out the perfect arm sleeve is another unique way to make their uniform look good.
In fact, so many players care about fashion that it is one of the 5 reasons why baseball players wear long socks – players want to improve their uniform’s appearance. So it makes sense that players also enjoy picking out an arm sleeve that compliments their uniform.
What are Some Good Arm Sleeves for Baseball?
There are a lot of options out there when looking to select an arm sleeve for baseball. Some popular arm sleeves I’ve seen for baseball are these arm sleeves from Nike and these arm sleeves from EvoShield.
Regardless of what arm sleeve you go with, make sure you find one that is both comfortable and flows well with your uniform’s colors.