Sports Medicine Braces and Supports: the Knee Brace

The knee is one of the most commonly injured joints in the human body.  An injured knee can affect every activity from walking to high level sports.  One common type of device used to protect the knee after injury is a knee brace.  The purpose of a knee brace is to provide support and decrease discomfort while allowing for normal motion of the knee. And hopfully help prevent the need for knee surgery.

knee braces and supports

If you’ve had a knee injury, you might wonder: what type of knee brace is right for me?  There are many types of knee braces out there but most fall into one of the following categories.

Rehabilitation Braces

When: After major injury or surgery.

How: These braces limit the movement around the knee.  After a traumatic injury and/or surgery, the tendons, ligaments, and other structures in the knee need time to heal properly.  This brace helps that process by restricting knee movement to prevent re-injury.  This brace is usually used in tandem with some other type of walking device such as crutches.

Functional Braces

When: After sports injury or surgery

How: Similar to the Rehabilitation braces, the functional brace adds support to the knee after injury or surgery.  However, it allows for more movement around the knee.  These types of braces help people who want to safely take part in activities such as running, jumping, pivoting, etc.  The functional brace adds support to the affected area depending on the type of injury, while still allowing the person to move as they normally would.

Prophylactic Braces

When: After sports injuries

How:  Prophylactic braces add a layer of protection to the injured knee.  Made of solid bars and hinges, they protect the knee from impacts that can occur in most sports.  Football players, especially offensive linemen, will sometimes wear these for extra support even if they have not had a knee injury.  The brace is specifically designed to reduce ligament tears and other common knee injuries (dislocation, meniscus tears, etc).

Unloader Braces

When: After development of knee osteoarthritis

How: Most often, knee osteoarthritis occurs in the medial compartment of the knee.  The unloader brace works to reduce the forces running through the medial compartment, and shift the joint contact force more towards the lateral compartment.  This brace places pressure on the thigh and shank causing decreased forces in the knee.  This ends up reducing knee pain while taking part in everyday activities.

If you have had a knee injury and would like a knee brace to help reduce pain and get you back on your feet, please contact us for advice on which brace would be best for you.