Use of a Basketball Knee Sleeve

Seated basketball player looking away

As basketball is a high-intensity, fast-moving sport, players aren't strangers to leg and knee injuries. Knee sleeves help offer support to sore knees, but they don't replace stronger braces or time off the court when it comes to serious injuries. Always check with your doctor to see if a knee sleeve is the right tool to keep you out there and running up and down the court.

Knees in Basketball

Knees take quite a beating when you play basketball, especially in these situations:

  1. Jumping:​ Knees propel you upward as you jump, as well as absorb much of the shock when you land.
  2. Cutting:​ Your knees help stabilize your legs as you make sudden, high-speed direction changes.

Put these together and you have great potential for knee injuries. Basketball players have more knee injuries than participants in any other sport, says Dr. Ed McLaughlin of the Sports Medicine Center.

Basketball Leg Sleeve Basics

While the overall main goal of basketball legs sleeves are to offer additional compression and support to the knees, there are different types of knee sleeves available. Most basketball leg sleeves are stretchy, pull-on sleeves, and are often made of neoprene.

Types of leg sleeves:

  1. Open kneecap:​ Open kneecap leg sleeves allow for more flexibility
  2. Closed kneecap:​ Closed kneecap leg sleeves allow for more compression and additional support
  3. Padded leg sleeves:​ Some basketball leg sleeves include extra padding in the front to help protect your kneecap from injury if you fall; the pads are flexible, which allows the knee to move naturally

How Basketball Leg Sleeves Help

When you have sore muscles or just achy knees, a sleeve could be just the thing to enhance your basketball skills. But how exactly do they work?

  1. Basketball leg sleeves support the area above and below the knee and helps the area retain heat, which often increases flexibility and speed
  2. Basketball leg sleeves make you more aware of your knee movement
  3. Basketball leg sleeves help your brain with proprioception, or knowing where your knee is at all times

Other Options

Knee sleeves aren't the only option for supporting that joint. Over-the-counter braces might use hook-and-loop closures around stiff material, which sometimes include metal frames, to allow you to adjust the size and amount of support based on your needs.

This type of support tends to limit joint flexibility, though. Like knee sleeves, these braces might have open or closed kneecap areas, depending on your needs. They aren't designed to help you recover from serious injuries or surgery, so talk with your doctor about your knee problems before choosing a sleeve or brace.