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Design of Sports Compression Garments: Exploring the Relationship Between Pressure Distribution and Body Dimensions

Brubacher, K and Apeagyei, P and Venkatraman, P and Tyler, D (2017) Design of Sports Compression Garments: Exploring the Relationship Between Pressure Distribution and Body Dimensions. In: 8th Asia-Pacific Congress on Sports Technology, 15 October 2017 - 19 October 2017, Tel Aviv, Israel.

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Abstract

In recent years, a wealth of research on the functionality of sports compression garments (SCGs) has emerged due to their increased popularity among athletes and SCG brands’ claims that they improve exercise performance, shorten recovery and prevent injuries. With most researchers from medical or sports science backgrounds, existing studies are biased towards these fields, neglecting considerations of users and the SCG-body-relationship. To address this gap, this study applied an online survey and wearer trials to create an understanding of user experiences with SCGs. 145 SCG users (65% male, 35% female) completed the online survey. Results show that the respondents have a positive attitude towards SCGs with 78% believing in their recovery-enhancing properties, whilst 49% believe that SCGs improve performance. To examine the behaviour of SCGs on the body, 33 wearer trials with active females (31.0 ± 8.57 years) were conducted. The participants’ body measurements were captured using a 3D body scanner (Size Stream, USA). Each participant was fitted into Skins A400 Women’s Active Long Tights and Long Sleeve Tops using the brand’s size chart. Pressures applied by the garments were measured at 22 locations using a pneumatic pressure measurement device (PicoPress®, Microlab, Italy). The wearer trials revealed that, despite high levels of user satisfaction identified by the online survey, compression levels varied widely across different individuals. This suggests a strong perceptual effect of SCGs. Variations in pressure levels are likely to be associated with variations in fit due to problems with the applied sizing system. The study adds a more garment- and user-focused outlook to the current research base and highlights the importance of adequate fit of SCGs. For SCGs to provide physiological benefits, they need to apply controlled pressure, which requires pressure prediction during the design phase. This will be addressed by the next stage of this research project.

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