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Cape compression garments – For travel both on and off the planet!

Cape founder and CEO Dr James Waldie has spent over 18 years researching compression. His initial research with NASA involved developing compression suits for astronauts during space travel! More recently Dr Waldie has applied his research findings to developing the most optimal compression garments for elite athletes considering their specific needs such as performance, recovery, rehabilitation, and travel.

Pictured Above - AFL Club Port Adelaide Team wearing Cape Bionics Custom Compression calf sleeves.

Impact of travel on athletic performance

Due to intense competition schedules many elite athletes are required to travel extensively throughout a competitive season. For some this may be frequent domestic travel with short turnaround times. NBA teams, with travel across four timezones, play slightly over three games a week over a 26-week regular season. And they go far, with most teams travelling well over 40,000 miles over the regular season. NFL teams routinely travel as far for games, but only play once a week over 17 weeks of the regular season. The AFL is similar, with travel across a similarly sized continent, but over a 23 round schedule, plus 4 finals. MLB teams play more often, normally at 162 games per 6-month season, but spend four to five days in each city, making for fewer miles travelled. For other athletes, their season may involve frequent long-haul travel as part of World Series or World Tour events, such as in motorsport or cycling.

During travel, prolonged sitting combined with limited space for movement can reduce leg blood flow and can result in blood pooling and swelling in the legs. In some cases, this may result in serious medical complications such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

The benefits of compression garments for travel

Compression garments are greatly beneficial for elite athletes to minimise the impact of travel on performance, as well as minimising the negative health consequences associated with prolonged travel. The effect of compression garments to increase blood flow during immobilised settings has been well documented. While the risk of developing DVT while travelling is low, studies have shown compression reduces the incidence of DVT.

In regard to athlete performance, travelling to a competition may impair performance at the event itself, whereas return travel may impair recovery from an event and also negatively affect training in the days following. Therefore, adopting strategies to minimise the effect of travel can enhance both athlete performance and recovery. Compression garments have been shown to enhance athletic recovery by reducing feelings of muscle soreness, this is particularly important when athletes are required to travel immediately post a strenuous game.

A number of studies have investigated the benefits of wearing lower leg compression garments during travel. It has been shown that wearing compression garments on a 6-hour flight can attenuate the decrement in performance associated with travel, therefore maximising performance at competition (Kraemer et al., 2016).

A similar study with elite volleyball athletes showed that compression garments worn during long haul air travel maintained exercise performance and reduced lower limb swelling (Broatch et al., 2019). Improved subjective ratings of alertness, fatigue, muscle soreness, and overall health, were also observed, suggesting that compression garments are beneficial in minimising the physiological stressors imposed by long-haul travel.

The recommendations from these studies are that coaches should promote the use of compression to maximise performance and also to enhance recovery and improve the quality of training performed soon after long-haul air travel.

Optimal compression for travel

Cape provide specific custom fitted compression garments for travel which have a different compression regime than the other types of compression garments in the range (performance, recovery, and rehabilitation).

During travel, heart rate is normal and movement is limited, therefore low to moderate grade compression is comfortable, invokes vasodilation and reduces swelling / oedema. This is in contrast to performance where heart rate is high and movement demands are high, which requires a different compression regime. Choosing the correct type of garment and ensuring it is custom fitted to the individual athlete ensures optimal benefit.

Cape compression for travel during AFL season

In a recent interview Dr Ian McKeown, Head of High Performance at Port Adelaide Football Club, discussed how Port Adelaide were using Cape Compression garments for travel during the AFL 2020 season.

“We were travelling intensively, we were flying in and out on the day of games. The boys were wearing them as they travelled to the game and on the way back too. Anything that they felt they could do to make themselves step off the plane in a better position they were really happy to do. I think that the belief effect, the fact that they were turning up with technology and the preparation, meant they were ready to go.”

Sport is well and truly back, including the Tokyo Olympics, so travel is back on the agenda for elite athletes too. Cape compression garments are an essential part of an athletes travel kit to ensure they arrive ready to perform at their best.


Kraemer et al., (2016). The effects of a roundtrip trans-American jet travel on physiological stress, neuromuscular performance, and recovery. J Appl Physiol 121: 438–448.

Broatch et el., (2019). Effects of sports compression socks on performance, physiological, and hematological alterations after long-haul air travel in elite female volleyballers. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 33(2): 492-501.

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