Knee braces – which type is best for you?

Knee Braces - knee painA wide variety of knee braces are available to both amateurs and professionals alike. Before buying and using one, it’s essential to understand what different knee braces are designed to do. The last thing you want is wear something that cannot provide the level of care and protection you need.

Take a closer look at the knee

Your knee links your thigh bone (femur) and your shin bone (tibia). Your kneecap (patella) and second bone in your calf (fibula) complete your knee joint. Four sets of ligaments join the bones.

Your ligaments are made of strong tissue bands joining the bones within a joint. Their main function is providing you with stability. There are four knee ligaments:

  1. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
  2. Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL)
  3. Medial collateral ligament (MCL)
  4. Lateral collateral ligament (LCL)

View of knee - ligaments

  1.  As the ACL is situated at the front of your knee, it’s considered the most conspicuous ligament. It’s responsible for keeping your leg within normal motion range and also ensures stability when you are walking, running or jumping. At the back of your knee is the PCL linking your femur and tibia. If there is forceful contact to the front of your knee, this could lead to PCL injury. The MCL and LCL ligaments are found either side of your knee to stop sideways motion.

What are knee braces designed to do?

  1. Apply pressure

Injuries cause inflammation. A knee brace offers an appropriate level of compression, which also diminishes discomfort and pain. The pressured fabric used in a knee brace is usually neoprene (man-made type of rubber that is oil, heat and weather proof).

  1. Provide stability

If there has been ligament damage a knee brace provides extra stability. The knee brace’s external straps behave as ligaments so you can continue with your chosen activity. Soft and rigid knee braces are available; the one you use depends on your activity and your injury.

What are compression supports?

Post injury it’s crucial to rest and administer ice and pressure to the location of the injury. These vital first steps of treatment minimise pain and inflammation and help you get back on your feet and active sooner rather than later. Compression supports are also called ‘sleeves’ due to their tube-like form. They offer excellent compression but reduced movement as they do not have a hinge.

Main types of knee braces

There are three main knee brace options available: hinged, soft and rigid. Each type of knee brace treats particular injuries, appropriate for specific activities – some are useful as preventative protection, some are helpful post injury in recovery and some are suitable for both. The market is saturated with many designs to suit different purposes and activities. It’s crucial you seek expert recommendations and diagnosis for your particular needs.

  1. Hinged knee brace

A hinged knee brace is effective if your injury relates to ligament damage, or if you require additional support in order to participate in walking, jumping or running activities. This type of knee brace operates both as a preventative measure as well as rehabilitative support.

  1. Soft knee brace

If your injury is not serious, you will usually wear a soft knee brace for stability and compression. Soft knee braces are useful short term support and form part of a recovery programme set out by your medical professional.

  1. Rigid knee braces

These almost indestructible knee braces are intended for extreme sport enthusiasts who need extreme protection for their hardworking joints. Rigid knee braces were made for adrenalin junkies and are intended as preventative protection or post injury protection. For instance, the CTi knee brace is made from carbon fibre ensuring maximum strength while being extremely lightweight. A CTi knee brace can absorb the impact and safeguard you during extreme activities such as snowboarding and motocross.

Extreme sports are responsible for 40% of all anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. This injury refers to the partial or full tearing or over stretching of the knee ligament. If you are an adrenalin junkie its especially recommended you wear a rigid knee brace when participating in extreme sports. This brace ensures you benefit from optimum levels of stability needed to support an ACL injury, and prevent further damage.  

Wearing a knee brace and playing sport

 It’s important you are aware there are different rules regarding knee brace eligibility and sport. For instance, a hinged knee brace is not allowed to be used in football. Official regulations consider the brace hinge dangerous to other players. A compressive sleeve is permitted instead. If you play a particular sport you need to familiarise yourself with the types of knee braces allowed.

A reliable hard and fast rule when it comes to dividing knee braces into categories is soft braces are usually used for all activities except extreme sports. A rigid knee brace has the necessary protection and durability required for extreme sports.

Did you know that, in partnership with Össur, we specialise in fitting the correct knee brace for you? To find out more get in touch.