The knee is the largest joint in the body. Because of its position and the range of forces on it, the knee and the tendons that support the knee are subject to a range of painful injuries. These injuries are especially likely in physically demanding and competitive high contact sports. The wrong twists and turns of the leg can cause strains with lasting pain and motion limitation. If the tendons around the knee are injured, the knee brace can replace some of their supportive functions, reduce pain, and allow the tissue to heal more quickly.
Functional knee braces to help healing
The decision to use a knee brace regularly has to do with comfort. If wearing the brace reduces level of pain after a minor injury, wearing the brace may be beneficial. In some cases there may be performance drawbacks to the use of a brace. They have been known to limit range and speed of motion which can be a performance disadvantage. The brace has to be carefully designed and fitted to be supportive of the injured tendons yet permit as close to normal motion as possible, especially in high performance sports.
Prophylactic knee braces to prevent injury
Athletes may use prophylactic knee braces to support their knees to prevent injury. The elastic knee supports supplement the support from the tendons around the knee. The extra support can be just what is needed to prevent injury. Many athletes derive a sense of security and comfort from braces that support the knee.
The medical value of knee braces is currently not well established. A lot of the controversy may have to do with the difficulty in designing good research to test them. Certainly the anecdotal evidence from athletes and others who use knee braces suggests that they have real benefit.
The cost of a hinged knee brace will vary widely. Advertised knee braces vary in price to hundreds of dollars. A quality knee brace that costs in the $60 range would be a good value.