For millions of Americans, and even more people around the globe, knee injuries are just a fact of life.
For whatever reason, certain people are going to have to deal with constant and chronic knee pain or injuries from time to time. On top of that, if you’ve already had a knee injury in the past, you’re going to be at a much higher risk of reinjury.
Because of this, and to prevent serious knee injuries from happening in the first place, you should at least consider wearing a sports knee brace or an athletic knee brace – even if you’re competitive athletic days are behind you!
An incredibly supportive tool, the right sports knee brace may not be able to prevent knee damage from ever happening – but it’s the closest thing you’ll find to “body armor” to keep your ligaments stable, to help your knee heal after an injury, and to eliminate a significant amount of the reinjury risks that you may have to contend with.
If you’ve been wondering whether or not an athletic knee brace is right for you, or if you should spend money on a new sports brace to replace whatever it is you’ve been using to protect your knee in the past, hopefully, this quick guide gives you the “inside information” you’re after.
Let’s dive right in!
1. How do sports knee braces actually work?
There are many different kinds of sports knee brace products out there, ranging from solutions that are little more than a compression sleeve designed to “hold everything together” under a bit of pressure and more advanced and “mechanical” braces that act almost like an exoskeleton.
But the general idea behind these products is exactly the same. They are designed and developed from the ground up to help support your knee and all of the ligaments in your knee and legs. Giving them the kind of stability from an external source to make sure that they either do not become damaged in the first place or are able to heal correctly after being injured.
Some of the more inexpensive and “light duty” athletic knee brace options out there can be purchased directly over-the-counter. However, the more mechanically intensive and “heavy duty” products are going to require a doctor’s note and possibly even a prescription.
If you are concerned about injuring your knee or reinjuring your knee and want to get the right knee brace for your specific situation. It’s a good idea to have a trusted medical professional at least look you over and give you their recommendation.
You just can’t beat that kind of “inside information”, unless you yourself have a medical degree and have spent years studying the anatomy of your knee and legs!
3. Breaking down the different styles of sports knee braces
There are a lot of different sports knee brace options out there on the market today, but the overwhelming majority of them fall into five different and distinct categories.
- Hinge brace
The easiest way to understand exactly what this type of athletic knee brace brings to the table is to think of it as a “secondary” knee joint. The entire unit is going to hinge backward and forwards, but almost completely eliminate any side to side movement. There’s going to be a little bit of flex one way or another, but the overwhelming majority of this sports knee brace action is going to operate on the same principles as a door hinge – it only swings forwards and backward.
- ACL brace
ACL braces are designed to stop rotation of the knee in the same way that the hinge brace is, but it’s a little more “strict” in the movement that it limits. You aren’t going to be able to rotate your knee in any way, shape, or form when you are locked into this kind of athletic knee brace and it’s really designed more for those that are healing up or rehabbing after a surgery.
- Patellofemoral brace
One of the “looser” athletic knee brace options out there today, the patellofemoral brace is designed to allow your knee and the ligaments to flex, stretch, and bend just a bit without over exerting. This again is more of a rehab sports knee brace than anything else, but it allows for a tremendous amount of extra range of motion and most others.
- Compression sleeves
These knee braces are designed specifically to slip over your feet and slide up to your knee. From there, the super tight construction material (usually neoprene or some other synthetic fabric) works to compress the ligaments and joints so that it provides a little bit of support.
- Knee immobilizer brace
This is the kind of brace that is attached to your needs after you have gone through surgery and when the doctor needs you to immobilize the joint completely. Usually prescribed for those that have just come out of an ACL/MCL surgery, it’s going to eliminate any and all flex in your knee completely – which is why it’s called an immobilizer.
This is the least athletic knee brace on the market today.
Depending upon your specific athletic endeavors and the knee condition that you are dealing with right now, one of the options above will probably be a perfect fit for you. Hopefully, you are able to find the right sports knee brace for your needs moving forward!