Knee braces are a common sight. An estimated one-third of the population age 45 and older suffers from knee pain. The knee is a very complicated joint and is subject to strains, sprains, ligament tears, cartilage damage and of course arthritis. Once the knee has been injured or is just showing signs of wear and tear, a brace is often the best thing for the knee.
Knees that are unstable due to ligament damage benefit from stiff, supportive braces. Knees that are just sore and achy from arthritis and over-use feel better when wrapped in a warm and mildly supportive soft neoprene-type brace. Many people report that pre-cut kinesiology tape for the knee works as well as or better than a soft neoprene wrap. The tape improves blood circulation to the knee and keeps it warm and limber without impeding motion.
So everyone agrees that knee braces are an excellent choice for those afflicted with knee injuries and knee aches and pains. However, what about for preventing knee injuries? This year the Dallas Cowboy linemen were horrified to learn that they were being required to wear knee braces during practice. Not to soothe old injuries, but to try to prevent new injuries.
Dr. David Geier reviewed the evidence on knee braces to prevent injuries during football. One study reported that knee braces did indeed reduce the rate of injuries to the MCL (the ligament on the inside of the knee, the inner-knee counterpart to the ACL). Two studies found no effect of prophylactic bracing on knee injuries. One study reported an increase in knee ligament injuries if braces were worn. And another study reported an increase in foot and ankle injuries if knee braces were worn. So the evidence is definitely not very consistent in regards to the ability of knee braces to prevent injury in football.
In regards to other sports, the evidence is scanty. There is some evidence to suggest that wearing a patellofemoral brace (the kind with a hole for the knee cap to rest in) during running can help prevent knee pain from developing. One author reported being surprised that there was so little evidence about the ability of knee braces to prevent injury, especially considering how prevalent and devastating ACL injuries are in sport. Some studies suggest that braces can reduce the strain on the ACL during certain movements, which may mean they can prevent ACL tears.
So it is very unclear if knee braces can prevent injuries. However, it is very clear that knee braces are beneficial to athletes who have already suffered from injuries or just have achy knees. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about our selection of knee braces.