The use of knee braces in sports medicine is known to be a controversial topic amongst informed professionals. Knee braces are used for a wide variety of problems and conditions. But do knee braces actually help?


​When browsing through a sporting goods store or pharmacy, one will probably notice an aisle largely dedicated to different tapes, wraps, braces and bandages all designed to assist athletes recover from an injury or ease pain. It is however safe to say that not all braces are created equal, and not every injury requires a brace. It is clear that at certain times and situations braces can get an athlete safely back onto the field while recovering properly and reducing risk of re-injury, but the brace must be used correctly.

Knee braces can be useful in helping prevent the recurrence of injury and alleviating pain for young athletes but should be used with caution and only with the direction of an expert who can properly assess the injury and give the best recommendation for the specific issue.

Braces are not substitutes for other things like a medical assessment or physical therapy recommendations. By simply applying a brace on the athlete, the underlying issue may be being ignored. The brace could be giving the athlete a false sense of protection and may even cause further injury. By not understanding the root of the problem, you may be denying the athlete the opportunity to fully rehabilitate and fully recover from an injury.

Suffice it to say:  If an athlete might need a brace, this needs to be verified by the athletic trainer or a medical professional. Further evaluation may be needed to rule out more serious problems that require additional treatment.

 There are different kinds of knee braces. Each one is used for different reasons.

Functional braces

These give support to knees that have been injured in the past. Athletes often wear them after a major injury has healed. They stabilise the knee and control motion to prevent another injury.

Rehabilitative braces

These are usually used for a period right after an injury or surgery. They keep the knee stable but still allow limited movement while it is healing. Some doctors have reported no visible benefit from these braces and are reluctant to recommend them.

Weight Support braces

These are designed to relieve pain in people who have arthritis in their knees. They shift the weight from the damaged area of the knee to a stronger area.

Prophylactic braces

These are designed to protect knees from injuries during contact sports such as football. They have become popular among athletes. Research has not proven that they work, but studies are ongoing.

Knee sleeves

These are not technically braces, but they are the most common type of knee support. They are designed to provide compression around the knee joint. This helps support the knee, and can control pain and swelling.

Things to consider

Knee braces are the least important part of preventing knee injuries or healing after an injury. Good strength and flexibility are much more important. It is encouraged to rather focus on stretching the muscles around the knee, strengthening the leg, and improving techniques.

Making changes in activity intensity or training schedules slowly, to limit knee stress. Work out an exercise plan with a doctor to get the best personal program. Knee braces help some people more than others, so if the response is positive, try to avoid the brace becoming indispensable.

Researchers are trying to learn more about how well knee braces really work and when it’s best to use them. Remember, your doctor should determine whether you need a brace.

This article ” Should Athletes Really Use Knee Braces For Sport Injuries?”  does not provide medical advice and is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a doctor for all medical advice.

Meet Dr Peter Smith, a leading Orthopaedic Surgeon operating from the Mediclinic Milnerton in Cape Town, Western Cape. His practice is situated in the heart of this seaside town.  Dr Peter Smith not only offers patients the full spectrum of professional orthopaedic treatments, but specialises in total knee replacement, total hip replacement, sports injuries and the latest arthroscopic surgery techniques and computer guided surgery. He gained extensive experience in the latest arthroplasty techniques during his stay of 6 years in Australia where he performed more than a hundred primary and revision hip and knee replacements cases in a year.



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