As a coach, I regard player health and safety as a primary responsibility. In the youth soccer environment, players are often expected to play several matches in a short period of time – for example in travel tournaments. In many high school and college soccer programs, teams have two fixtures in three days as part of a typical league schedule. Rey et al. (2018) noted studies indicating that full recovery from match activities can require at least 72 hours. Research into recovery techniques has indicated a variety of methods for enabling and improving player recovery, particularly in a period of congested fixtures. The use of compression garments has been studied as one method of improving the quality of the recovery period (Marqués-Jiménez et al., 2016).
A recent paper by Gimenes et al. (2019) provides some data on the application of compression stockings on the recovery of senior youth players. The authors noted that:
[T]he use of CS blunted the increase in perceived muscle soreness after the second match, possibly promoting increased high-intensity running in the ensuing match (7,34). Accordingly, regardless of the mechanisms, the use of CS during matches with short recovery time (e.g., 72 hours) in-between seems an appropriate strategy to minimize the soccer-induced fatigue and muscle damage (p. 6).
Although basic metabolic markers were consistent between the experimental and control groups, the RPE, internal load, and sprint performance indicated benefits of the compression garments in two observed matches in a 5-day period. Distance covered, high-speed movements, and deceleration activities were also superior in the experimental group. Muscle soreness, a key measure of exercise-induced damage, was less in the experimental group.
The authors concluded:
Our results showed that the use of CS minimized the increment of local muscle soreness perception, especially in the second match and promoted more considerable distance covered in high-intensities activities (which are most decisive for soccer). Therefore, we recommend the use of CS during the matches in games performed within a short time (i.e., 72 hours) of recovery in-between. We also suggest evaluating if the player feels comfortable with such garments and use accordingly (or not) (p. 7)
Although I am retired from active participation in competitive soccer, I began wearing compression stockings last fall when executing my primary conditioning activities – indoor rowing and cycling. Without performing any detailed scientific analysis, my perception is less exertion, more comfort, and quicker post-session recovery.
Current research has been limited to senior youth and adult athletes, and more study is required for younger athletes to determine if the results are consistent or if there are adverse effects with the use of compression garments.
Given the high frequency of youth soccer matches during tournament and league seasons, the low unit cost, and the potential health and performance benefits, coaches should consider the application of compression stockings as a simple method to improve player recovery.
Gimenes, S. V., Marocolo, M., Pavin, L. N., Spigolon, L. M. P., Neto, O. B., & COˆ, B. V. (2019). Compression Stockings Used During Two Soccer Matches Improve Perceived Muscle Soreness and High-Intensity Performance. Journal of strength and conditioning research.
Marqués-Jiménez, D., Calleja-González, J., Arratibel, I., Delextrat, A., & Terrados, N. (2016). Are compression garments effective for the recovery of exercise-induced muscle damage? A systematic review with meta-analysis. Physiology & behavior, 153, 133-148.
Rey, E., Padrón-Cabo, A., Barcala-Furelos, R., Casamichana, D., & Romo-Pérez, V. (2018). Practical active and passive recovery strategies for soccer players. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 40(3), 45-57.