Do Arm Sleeves Help You Shoot Better In Basketball?

Arm sleeves are becoming commonplace on basketball courts. Whether it's at a college campus or an NBA game, chances are you've seen a few players donning these sleeves. So, what's the deal with this accessory? Are arm sleeves all about "fashion," or do they truly help players improve their shot? If you've considered adding arm sleeves to your b-ball bag, you've got to check out the research we've compiled below. 

On their own, arm sleeves won't help you shoot better in basketball. As with any other sport, you need to work hard and focus on your technique to improve your shooting skills. However, it's possible that arm sleeves may give players a psychological boost when they're on the court. There's also some evidence these sleeves could increase blood flow to your arm, which may speed up injury recovery and take a bit of strain off your game. 

Wearing an arm sleeve won't magically transform you into Michael Jordan, but that doesn't mean they're worthless fashion accessories. People who play basketball could benefit from many of the features arm sleeves offer. 

A basketball player training for his tournament, Do Arm Sleeves Help You Shoot Better In Basketball?

Do Arm Sleeves Help Basketball Players Shoot Better?

Arm sleeves won't boost your b-ball shooting skills. A few recent tests reveal arm sleeves offer basketball players no statistically significant advantage.

One study in Ohio found no link between successful shots and arm sleeves in a group of 14 players. Each of these study participants took 25 shots with and without sleeves. Researchers also analyzed the differences in using arm sleeves on both arms, the non-dominant, and the dominant arm. Analysts concluded that any benefits associated with arm sleeves were primarily psychological.

Shooting a ball to the basketball hoop

This doesn't mean arm sleeves don't have beneficial features; remember, these sleeves were made for comfort above all else. Some people may experience a "placebo effect" when wearing their arm sleeves, but there's no scientific evidence they help improve shooting. 

The only way to up your shooting game is to practice as much as possible. To get you started, check out these simple shooting drills you could practice at home:

By the way, if you've ever dreamed of playing basketball at an at-home court, you've got to check out our guide to "Building A Concrete Basketball Court." 

What Do Shooting Sleeves Do In Basketball?

Shooting sleeves are nylon or spandex accessories that are designed to fit snugly around a player's arms. The theory is these sleeves provide players with extra compression, which may increase the amount of blood to their arms. This additional blood flow may decrease soreness, reduce the severity of injuries, and speed up muscle recovery. 

A boy playing basketball with his grandpa

Another benefit ascribed to shooting sleeves is they can prevent sunburn. However, you have to double-check the sleeves you're interested in have UV or UVB blocking technology. This feature may be helpful if you enjoy playing basketball during the dog days of summer.

Find out more on this Amazon link.

Somewhat related to the last point, most shooting sleeves are made with a moisture-wicking material. This could help players quickly wipe away sweat on their foreheads without missing a beat. However, if players don't like shooting sleeves, they could always look into wristbands or headbands to keep their sweat in check. 

Find out more on this Amazon link. 

Lastly, if you like playing basketball outdoors during fall or winter, arm sleeves can keep your arms nice and warm. The added compression will make it easier to fend off goosebumps on brisk autumn days. 

Why Are Arm Sleeves Popular In Basketball?

A player wearing a sleeve while holding a ball

Basketball sleeves became trendy in the early 2000s when Philadelphia 76ers star Allen Iverson started wearing one at games. Allegedly, Iverson decided to use an arm sleeve to decrease pain related to elbow bursitis. However, even after Iverson's bursitis cleared up, he kept wearing his arm sleeve because he played so well.

Get this: Iverson is so associated with his armband that action figures in his likeness also have one!

Find out more on this Amazon link. 

Ever since Iverson popularized the arm sleeve, this item has become trendy in college basketball and the NBA. A few notable players who have worn arm sleeves include Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, and LeBron James.

What Arm Should I Wear A Shooting Sleeve On?

A basketball player spinning a basketball

Everyone has a different opinion on what arm they should wear their shooting sleeve on. Some people claim wearing it on your shooting hand enhances your throw. However, many basketballers say there are advantages to wearing a sleeve on your non-dominant arm. 

For instance, you could easily wipe your shooting hand on the sleeve of your non-dominant arm before taking a shot. Some people also claim the shooting sleeve acts as a buffer from scratches or other people's sweat when defending. 

Honestly, there's no evidence wearing a sleeve on your dominant or non-dominant arm has any advantage over the other. If you want to use shooting sleeves, you should try them on both arms to see what works best for your playing style.  

Do Arm Sleeves Come In Different Sizes?

Now that shooting sleeves are more popular, it's easy to find them in many sizes. Every manufacturer offers slightly different sizes, but most are available in x-small, small, medium, large, and x-large. Most companies recommend x-small for kids, small and medium for tweens to teens, large for young adults, and x-large for adults. 

Find out more on this Amazon link.

If you have concerns about how your arm sleeve will fit you, it's best to contact the manufacturer directly. Measure the length from your wrist through your bicep and compare it with the company's size recommendations.  

How Do I Know Which Size Shooting Sleeve I Need?

The easiest way to figure out your ideal shooting sleeve size is to measure your arm from just below the elbow to your wrist. Manufacturers recommend measuring your arm at least three times and averaging it out if you want a super accurate measurement. You'd be surprised how easy it is to get a slightly different measurement of your arm!

A kid playing basketball with older people

While you measure the length of your arm, you could also measure across your bicep. These two measurements should be all you need to choose a snug shooting sleeve. 

Once you have your measurements, you should compare them with the recommended numbers for your company's shooting sleeve. Usually, companies post the ideal length for their shooting sleeves on each product. 

As a general guideline, here are the average lengths for different shooting sleeve sizes:

  • X-small: 13 inches
  • Small: 14.5 inches
  • Medium: 15 inches
  • Large and X-large: 16.5 inches

If you need more tips about measuring your arm for a shoulder sleeve, please watch this YouTube video:

How Tight Should Arm Sleeves Be?

The point of an arm sleeve is to provide some compression to your arm, so it should feel slightly tight. We don't mean your sleeve should feel uncomfortable, but you should notice it's providing some tightness. 

Of course, if the arm sleeve is causing you pain or you feel you're not as flexible, then it's too tight. On the opposite extreme, if your arm sleeve is baggy, then it's not doing its job. Always strive to find an arm sleeve that provides noticeable compression without distracting you. 

Why Do NBA Players Wear Finger Sleeves?

Finger sleeves are miniature arm sleeves...but, of course, they're for your fingers. The primary reason NBA players wear finger sleeves is to improve their grip. Many of these finger sleeve designs have special textured padding that's said to help you keep control of the ball. These finger sleeves may also slightly reduce sweat on your palms, thus increasing grip.

Although the primary reason for finger sleeves isn't injury prevention, they may help stabilize your fingers during a game. These finger straps provide a bit of compression, so they could be helpful if you have an injury or a sore finger.

Find out more on this Amazon link. 

Please remember that "grip" in basketball is just as important for your shoes as it is for your fingers. To learn more about this topic, you've got to check out our post, "How To Add Grip To Basketball Shoes." 

So, Are Basketball Arm Sleeves Worth It?

Arm sleeves won't dramatically enhance a basketball player's skills on the court. If you didn't put the time and practice into your basketball skills, wearing an arm sleeve won't give you a competitive advantage.

However, these sleeves offer basketball players a few features that may be beneficial. For instance, arm sleeves provide mild compression, which may help with injury recovery. Most arm sleeves also have UV protection and moisture-wicking technology. While arm sleeves aren't an "essential" part of a basketball player's equipment, they may be worth trying for people who love the sport. 

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