Braces include: prophylactic braces which prevent knee injuries in contact sports, functional braces to provide stability for unstable knees, and patellofemoral braces to help with patellar tracking and a decrease of anterior knee pain. There are also rehabilitative braces that allow for protected and controlled motion during physiotherapy of an injured knee.
Prophylactic Knee Braces
Prophylactic knee braces offer limited resistance to lateral knee impact. Unfortunately, there is not enough conclusive research supporting use of this type of brace. Despite this, many players and coaches still consider using prophylactic knee braces. Many players wear prophylactic knee braces in practices but not in games, because of feared performance limitations.
It is advisable to try on several different braces before purchase a brace. Regular tightening of straps, tape or hook-and-pile fasteners helps reduce unwanted brace migration. One important thing to remember is that it is very important to correctly place the hinge(s) relative to the femoral condyles. Never wear a broken or damaged prophylactic knee brace.
Functional Knee Braces
Functional knee braces are designed to reduce knee instability following an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and are available in custom or presized models.
Presized braces are sized by measuring the thigh circumference 6 in above the mid-patella and selecting the corresponding brace size.
Always ensure accurate sizing, as it will limit brace migration and improve brace effectiveness. Most companies make braces of different lengths, and the longest length the athlete can comfortably wear should be chosen. Setting 10 to 20 degrees of extension limitation may help minimize hyperextension of the knee joint.
Functional knee braces can be very useful adjuncts to muscular rehabilitation for graft protection following ACL reconstruction.
Although functional knee braces can help tremendously, lower extremity muscle strengthening, flexibility improvements and technique refinement are even more important in treating ligamentous knee injuries.
Although definitions vary, anterior knee pain is most often thought to originate from a malalignment of the patellofemoral joint. Patellofemoral braces help resist lateral displacement of the patella, maintain patellar alignment and, decrease knee pain. They are generally priced reasonably, are easy to use and can be found in any health care product store. Patellofemoral braces can often help decrease anterior knee pain, but it is even more important to address the issue with a course of physiotherapy treaments.
These braces are usually made up of an elastic material such as neoprene and may include straps or buttresses that help to stabilize the patella. An off-the-shelf version often does the trick and there is usually no need for customization. Shoe orthotics should be considered in addition to a brace for patients with a very stubborn case of patellofemoral pain syndrome.
Patellofemoral braces improve patellar tracking through a medially directed force, and should be used along with a comprehensive knee rehabilitation program that includes strengthening, flexibility and technique improvements.
Note: In general, knee braces are more effective on some people than others. Overall, stretching, strengthening and technique improvement are much more important in both preventing and decreasing knee pain. Changes in intensity or training schedules should be made gradually, to limit knee stress.
Good strength and flexibility will lessen the likelihood of the need for a brace or decrease the time required to wear a brace. Working out a thorough plan with your physical therapist to get the best exercise program for you, will minimize any type of knee problem you may have.
View our Recommended Knee braces available online.