DunkOrThree > Your Basketball Blog > Why Do Women Basketball Players Wear One Leg Sleeve?

Why Do Women Basketball Players Wear One Leg Sleeve?

Publish Date: 05.07.2024
Fact checked by: Emily Carter

Sports accessories have come a long way over the past few decades. Once seen as niche, there are now many products that help drive recovery, protection, or comfort without being too intrusive. One of the biggest examples are leg sleeves.

Leg sleeves offer injury protection and comfort in a single sleek package. Many athletes use them, but they’re especially popular in women’s basketball. Both college and WNBA players like to have leg sleeves when suiting up for a game, as there are many benefits to having one on.

They also are used as a fashion statement in many cases, which is another reason they have become so common as of late. That mix of form and function shows that leg sleeves aren’t just useful, they’re here to stay.

Maya Moore

Practical Reasons for Wearing One Leg Sleeve

Leg sleeves have a wide variety of uses, with the biggest being that they do a great job of both cutting down on injuries and sparking recovery. However, it’s important to note that players rarely wear two sleeves at the same time. Mostly, it’s just one.

That’s because one sleeve is more than enough to get the job done when it comes to physical or tangible benefits. It also allows more flexibility and breathability. While wearing two might impact on-court performance, one allows players to run and jump without issue.

The biggest reason basketball players wear sleeves is to protect or help an injured or previously injured leg. Having something compress the hurt limb and keep everything in place during a game is a great way to cut down on future issues as well.

Support is one of the most important aspects for athletes, as it allows them to play when recovering without putting their body more at risk. Re-injury is a big fear for all players, and a strong leg sleeve reduces the chance of that happening without too much trouble.

That’s especially important for players who have a history of problems. There are many ways to damage a leg when playing basketball, from a tear to a strain to a sprain. Sleeves reduce the chance of all of those in just one product.

Beyond that, the accessories also aid in muscle recovery, help lower fatigue, and work to raise circulation. Those three traits are critical for high level basketball players because they greatly improve in-game performance while also boosting physical attributes at the same time.

Players need to get every edge they can. Staying healthy is a big part of that. Sleeves keeping the body going is something that all players can appreciate, and it’s something that pays off large dividends over an entire season. The less games someone misses, the more productive they can be.

Fashion and Personal Expression

When asking why do women’s basketball players wear one leg sleeve, it’s easy to focus on the physical benefits. However, there’s a big branding and fashion side to the look as well. In fact, those trends are a huge driver behind the accessory.

The first leg sleeves popped up in 2018 when A’ja Wilson wore one in her WNBA summer debut. Next, Te’a Cooper rocked the single sleeve look when playing at Baylor University in 2019. Since then, they have only gotten more and more common.

Many players, including Queen Egbo, Michaela Onyenwere, and Chennedy Carter, even wore one leg sleeve for their official media day photos. That shows the players enjoy the look and have adopted it as a part of their personal style.

That’s another reason so many women basketball players wear one sleeve over two. While having two could be beneficial in some cases, having just one is a much larger fashion statement and helps the player stand out.

Wearing a signature sleeve in a specific color or pattern is another way some women athletes have managed to make themselves known. Being recognized for an accessory can greatly grow a player’s popularity and help them better connect with their fans.

With many top players like Wilson and Angel Reese wearing one sleeve, many fans have jumped on the trend too. Plenty of followers on social media love the one sleeve appearance and now associate with their favorite basketball players both in the WNBA and college.

Functional Benefits of Leg Sleeves Over Alternatives

Looking at leg sleeves from an appearance and branding standpoint, they have a unique flair that puts them over many similar sports clothing items or accessories. However, they also do a better job of keeping athletes healthy than similar options.

For instance, when compared to cut tights, leg sleeves provide a much more comfortable fit. They also generate more compression, which then leads to better support and strength. The items tend to be much more durable and can handle wear and tear too.

In addition, leg sleeves get the nod over a range of similar products because of their versatility. Where many items can only be worn in one way for one purpose, leg sleeves offer a wide range of benefits and can be switched in and out to match those benefits as players see fit.

There are many types of leg sleeves, and they all do something a little bit different. For instance, some are stronger to mainly provide support, some are flexible to allow for better in-game performance, while others are made for warmth and some are ventilated to focus on airflow.

They also can be worn in conjunction with other items to provide even more support. One such instance is backing them up with knee or ankle braces. That combination is perfect for athletes who take their recovery seriously and who want to get as much support as possible.

Many players also like to customize the look and design on their sleeves. That’s another huge benefit because unlike other sports accessories like shoes or bands, leg sleeves are immediately noticeable before and during a game.

Everyone takes notice of a leg sleeve simply due to their size. As such, when a player decides to enhance their own brand or make a fashion statement, it’s something everyone sees. That alone makes them more fun than other clothing items.

Impact on Performance and Comfort

There are few ways to better support the lower body than with leg sleeves. Basketball is one of the most demanding sports there is, especially for high level athletes who need to put in hours and hours of practice each and every week.

While some players will never have problems handling that workload, most need some extra help every now and then. Sleeves back up muscles, enhance general flexibility, and keep the limbs agile over extended periods of time.

All of those traits are incredibly important for people running, cutting, and jumping on a court for forty plus minutes a night. They also protect everything inside the leg, such as tendons, which also reduces the soreness that can come from basketball.

The other big bonus for professional athletes is that leg sleeves just make playing the game much more comfortable. Not only from cutting down on minor pains and aches, but by providing more flexibility and helping regulate body temperature.

Overheating is a big problem for dedicated athletes, especially those who play in crowded gyms or packed stadiums under hot lights. Leg sleeves help keep athletes cool, which can give them some extra stamina and enable them to go harder for longer.

The accessories absorb sweat too, which is another big part of comfort. Not only is sweat reduction a critical part of regulating heat, but it keeps the leg dry and reduces the uncomfortability that comes with moisture.


There are a wide range of reasons women basketball players choose to wear one leg sleeve. The biggest is recovery and support, but they also work as a branding tool and fashion statement. In that way, they serve multiple purposes at the same time.

Though the accessories will always be worn because of the way they make players better when they’re in the game, their rising popularity is also partly attributed to the fact that they look cool and help women stand out both on and off the court.

There’s no telling how sports accessories will progress in the coming years, nor is there any way to know what trends might pop up. The one leg sleeve look is really big right now, and will likely continue for the near future. That is, until the next big thing comes along.

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