Compression Garments: No Enhancement of High-Intensity Exercise in Hot Radiant Conditions

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose:

To establish the thermal and performance effects of wearing a lower-body graduated compression garment (GCG) in a hot environment (35.2°C ± 0.1°C) with a representative radiant heat load (~800 W/m2) in contrast to a control (running shorts) and sham condition (a compression garment 1 size larger than that recommended by the manufacturer), with the latter included to establish any placebo effect.

Method:

Eight participants (mean ± SD; age 21 ± 2 y, height 1.77 ± 0.06 m, mass 72.8 ± 7.1 kg, surface area, 1.89 ± 0.10 m2) completed 3 treadmill tests at a fixed speed for 15 min followed by a self-paced 5-km time trial. Performance (completion time) and pacing (split time), thermal responses (aural, skin, and mean body temperature, cardiac frequency), and perceptual responses (rating of perceived exertion [RPE], thermal sensation, thermal comfort) were measured.

Results:

Performance in the compression group was not different than in either sham or control at any stage (P > .05); completion time 26.08 ± 4.08, 26.05 ± 3.27, and 25.18 ± 3.15 min, respectively. At the end of the 5-km time trial, RPE was not different; it was 19 ± 1 across conditions. In general, thermal and perceptual responses were not different, although the radiant heat load increased site-specific skin temperature (quadriceps) in the garment conditions.

Conclusion:

GCG did not enhance performance in a hot environment with a representative radiant heat load. The sham treatment did not benefit perception. GCG provided no evidence of performance enhancement.

The authors are with the Dept of Sport and Exercise Science, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK.