The knee joint, more so than almost any other area of the body, is subject to a variety of forces and actions during competitive sports play. It has to endure an abundance of wear and tear, which should make it no surprise that many athletes have to endure knee injuries throughout their active lives. Even with proper strength training, safe and correct performance of sports-related drills, and lessening the stress on the knees, the reality is that injury will happen no matter how much we prepare and try to prevent it. However, coaches, trainers, and sport medicine professionals have all found a variety of ways to treat knee injuries, the most fascinating of which is that patellar strap.
It doesn’t look like it should work, after all the patellar strap is literally just a strap that sits just below the patella, or knee cap. Yet, many athletes swear by the patellar strap, touting it from lessening knee pain and preventing frequent injuries to the area. Yet, the question remains, does the patellar strap work?
What Does a Patellar Strap Do?
Knee pain has a number of difference causes, but the most common malady is patella-femoral pain syndrome (PFPS) where the underside of the knee cap constantly comes in contact with the femur. Everyone from runners to basketball players are at risk for this, particularly females with an increased Q-angle in the knee area, playfully referred to as “knock-knees”. However, knock knees don’t often feel very playful. Repeated weight-bearing activities like running, jumping, and ascending stairs can aggravate this syndrome to the point where it is constantly painful.
Patellar straps, occasionally just called knee straps, are applied just under the knee cap. The idea is to press on the patellar tendon and tighten up the knee mechanism, providing support to the knee cap so that is it not constantly thumping against the femur. The effort not only helps to ease the discomfort of patella-femoral pain syndrome, but it keeps the cartilage that would normally prevent contact from degenerating any further.
When NOT to Use a Patellar Strap
Sport medicine studies have gone back and forth on the merits of patellar straps. This has led to so much confusion as to whether patellar straps actually work or not, but athletes can simply decide for themselves by trying this inexpensive piece of equipment out. Regardless, many researchers have landed on the consensus that when used to treat pain in the lower knee cap area as it begins, a patellar strap can stop cartilage degeneration and help keep knees healthy longer. However, patellar straps are not the end-all answer to knee pain.
For those who have had knee injuries previously, particular in areas other than the patellar-femoral area, a knee strap may not be the best option. Full knee supports and braces are essential for recovery from knee injuries and providing support to weak areas of the knee. Those who have been injured before need to play both with and without a knee brace to prevent additional aggravation of the area as well as allow the knee to strengthen naturally.
However, the major benefit of a patellar strap is that the area it supports does not benefit from natural strengthening without the knee strap, but does benefit from the support it provides.
Are you conflicted on whether your knee pain can benefit with a knee strap? Do you think it might require something sturdier like a knee brace? Contact usto see what we recommend for your particular knee-related sports injury so we can help get you back in the game as soon as possible.