A week and a half into healing my ankle sprain things are going fairly well. My family is at the beach on vacation and last night I tested my ankle for the first time since the sprain by throwing around a football with my daughter for about fifteen minutes.
Running lightly in sand seemed a forgiving and supportive medium for my foot to do some planting and pushing off. Things feel pretty good this morning and thanks to the miracle of the compression sleeve that I mistakenly bought thinking I was buying and ankle brace, I am reduced to a slight swelling on the outer ankle.
Having never had circulation issues or an ankle sprain before I have, thankfully, never found any use for compression hosiery though I knew about them because my father wore compression socks for the last fifteen or twenty years of his life.
Thinking that I was buying an ankle brace, and not being the most discerning consumer, I bought the wrong product, and am pleased and amazed by the results. Of course it turns out that I am late to the party. Elite runners have been using compression materials for a good while and now I know the point of the black and white sleeves that the basketball players cover themselves in.
Athletes are always looking for an edge so they must be onto something, correct? So what exactly do compression sleeves do?
The basic way the body works is that the heart pumps blood (containing oxygen) to our body and muscles through arteries. Once the oxygen and other nutrients from the blood are consumed by our cells, this deoxygenated blood goes to the veins to get taken back to the heart. When the blood returns to the heart the process is repeated.
The simple idea behind compression apparel is that it increases blood flow. The sleeves are supposed to increases blood and lymphatic flow in order to improve performance and expedite recovery. Supposedly they decrease lactic acid, prevent cramps and minimize muscle fatigue. One idea is that compression decreases vibration in the moving muscles which can decrease muscle fatigue and increase proprioception.
The ultimate question would be whether they actually work or provide a benign placebo. Test results are remarkably varied when it comes to sports performance. My father wore them for years and lord know his swollen ankles never improved, which isn’t to say they didn’t help him.
In the case of my sprained ankle, it seems a bit of a miracle. My ankle went from looking something like one of my father’s hooves to a normal looking foot. I am left with the original swelling and not complaining too much. Tomorrow makes two weeks and I’d like think I am healing at a good pace.