Can You Play Sports With a Knee Brace?
Every year, one in every 3,500 people in the US sustain an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. That makes it the most common ligament injured in the knee. If you've developed such an injury yourself, you may be wondering, "can you play sports with a knee brace?"
Yes, you can. The proper use of the right knee brace may help make your injured knee more stable during play. Some studies also suggest that braces may help prevent knee injuries in the first place.
How Can You Play Sports With a Knee Brace?
You can wear a prophylactic knee brace to help reduce your risks of knee injuries. "Prophylactic" means preventive. As such, the aim of a prophylactic knee brace is to minimize the risk of trauma and injury to the knees.
If you have an existing injury, your doctor may require you to wear a functional knee brace. You can still wear this while you play sports, but be sure to ask your doctor if you can go back to playing first.
How Can Wearing a Knee Brace During Play Help?
The popularity of prophylactic knee braces for use in sports traces back to the late 1970s. It was during this time that researchers tested their use on NFL players.
Since then, other health experts have carried out studies on prophylactic knee braces.
Can Help Boost Knee Resistance to Blows
One study found that knee braces can provide 20% to 30% more resistance to a lateral blow to the knee. However, the researchers also emphasized that the braces must provide an optimal fit. According to them, the better the brace's fit, the more effective it can be in helping cushion the knees.
Provide a Cushion for Falls
Some types of knee braces have cushioning pads. This layer of padding covers the front of the knee. In cases of fall accidents during play, they can help dampen the blow to the kneecaps.
Also, keep in mind that the skin covering knees is highly susceptible to bruises and cuts. After all, during a fall, the knees are often the first part of the body to take a hit.
Since knee pads cover these sections of the body, then they can also keep wounds at bay. It's for this reason that volleyball players, skateboarders, and cyclists wear them.
Can Help Keep the Knees Aligned
Some researchers also found knee braces to help correct knee misalignment. This can happen if the patella, or kneecap, get dislocated or knocked out of its proper position. Such injuries often occur when the kneecap suddenly gets forced to change directions.
If you have a misaligned patella, you may notice that it looks weird or out of place. You may also hear (or feel) popping sounds coming from your knee whenever you place force on it. Inflammation and pain may also occur as a result of the injury.
These are all signs that you may need a knee brace. Of course, it's best to consult your doctor to determine what exactly is wrong with your knee. Still, your doctor may recommend the use of a knee brace to help with the misalignment correction.
Proprioception refers to your awareness of your body's position and movement. The more aware you are of your body's position, the lower your risks of incorrect movement may be. This, in turn, may help you avoid injuries to your knees caused by sudden or extreme forces.
One example is a torn meniscus, which can also result in a burning sensation in your knee. The meniscus is a tough and rubbery piece of C-shaped cartilage that absorbs shock. It's very durable, but it can still get torn if you suddenly twist your knee while it bears weight.
Note that knee meniscal injuries are quite common, with a prevalence rate of 12% to 14%. In many cases, a torn meniscus occurs due to sudden stops, turns, and aggressive pivots.
These are all common movements in sports. They are also common as the game's excitement may reduce one's awareness of the body's position.
Can You Play Soccer With a Knee Brace?
Yes, you can also play soccer with a knee brace. A knee brace or support can help improve your knee and leg stability. It can also boost your proprioception.
You may even want to consider wearing a knee brace when playing basketball or football. You can use also use knee supports and stabilizers for cycling and even running. Knee braces may be helpful for various activities that may put your knees at the risk of injuries.
What Are Specific Types of Knee Braces You Can Use When Playing Sports?
Aside from the knee pads mentioned above, you can also wear hinged braces or soft braces. There are also supportive braces that specifically provide stability to the knees. The most commonly-worn knee supports, however, are the knee sleeves.
Hinged Knee Braces
Hinged braces consist of hinged bars along the sides of the knee. Straps then wrap around the leg to hold the braces in place. These can help secure the knee and limit its movement to prevent it from getting dislocated.
Soft Knee Brace
Soft knee braces can reduce pain and perturbed walking in people with unstable knees. These breathable knee braces have also shown to improve walking speeds. Moreover, they can also help boost confidence in the stability and condition of the knees.
All that suggests that a soft knee brace can be an ideal preventive and supportive device. Moreover, they're not like hinged braces that are often bulky. They look a bit more like knee sleeves with their compact and narrower profile.
A high-quality soft knee brace can also help correct or prevent your kneecap from going out of place. It can do so by providing gentle yet firm compression to your knees. A patella cover also further enhances knee protection against dislocation and other injuries.
Knee stabilizing braces or pads help support the ligaments of the knee. They can be especially helpful for activities that involve bending or squatting. Some knee stabilizer pads use high-quality springs to promote enhanced lifting power.
Knee sleeves are often neoprene braces that you simply slide over the knee. Some come with a kneecap padding, while others have an opening for the patella itself.
The primary goal of knee sleeves is to provide compression and warmth to the knees. However, some of the more innovative ones may also provide some level of support to the knees. You'll also find self-heating sleeves that you can wear during outdoor sports.
How to Wear a Knee Brace for Optimal Fit?
If you choose to wear non-adjustable knee sleeves, you only need to make sure you get them in your size. These knee sleeves are slide-on, so they use flexible and stretchable materials.
If you want the most comfortable and custom fit, go with adjustable knee sleeves. These sleeves come with straps that you can adjust to tighten or loosen as you see fit.
With that said, the most crucial thing when wearing a knee brace is to make certain it's secure but not too tight.
If it's too loose, your brace will keep sliding and may even fall to your ankles. If this happens, you may find yourself tripping and falling.
Also, a loose brace defeats the purpose of wearing a supportive brace in the first place. If it's not secure, it won't provide adequate support and compression to the knees.
By contrast, a too-tight knee brace can impede the circulation, not just to your knees but your entire leg. Constricted blood flow, in turn, can affect your performance and even hinder recovery.
Important Considerations Before Wearing a Knee Brace During Play
Knee braces can help lower the risk of injuries that arise from sports and rigorous activity. They may also help promote more efficient recovery for existing knee injuries. However, their benefits can be largely dependent on their use as directed by your doctor.
For one, incorrect use of knee braces can hinder your recovery or even cause further injury. This is especially true if they don't provide an optimal fit.
Also, your doctor may require you to wear them for specific durations or periods. You may have to wear them all day, and not just only during sports. Or, you may have to use them only for a few hours each day or while playing sports.
Don’t Let Your Knee Stop You From Playing
There you have it, all the answers to your question, "can you play sports with a knee brace?" Now that you know you can, the next step is to consult your primary healthcare provider. This way, your doctor can instruct you on the specific type of knee brace that's best for your situation.
Ready to start exploring your knee brace options? If so, then make sure you check out the collection of PowerRebound™ knee braces and supports! You can also send us a message if you'd like to know more about a specific brace, pad, sleeve, or stabilizer.