What Do NBA Players Wear on Their Knees?
Did you know NBA players play 82 games a season? That means 82 times they put their all out on the court, cutting, weaving, jabbing, and abruptly stopping. No wonder so many players wear knee braces even when they haven't had a knee injury.
So exactly what do NBA players wear on their knees for injury prevention and pain relief, and can we wear the same type of brace? NBA players commonly wear one of three things on their knees during basketball game or training: knee compression sleeves or braces for basketball or knee pads to protect their knees.
The Anatomy of a Knee
To best understand why NBA players and the average Joe wear knee braces, you first must understand the basic anatomy of a knee. A knee has three basic parts: bones, ligaments, and tendons.
The knee joint itself qualifies as one of the most complicated joints in the body. It bears weight and bends anywhere from 180 to a fraction of a degree. It has a handful of things that can go wrong because of everything in it.
The knee joint itself connects the femur, the upper leg bone, to the tibia, the main lower leg bone.
The patella, or the knee cap, is the main bone in the knee joint.
Tendons and Ligaments
Tendons are fibrous tissue that connects bones to muscles. As far as the knee goes, tendons connect the patella to the upper and lower leg muscles.
Ligaments connect bones to bones. Your knee has three main ligaments that make it work.
- The anterior cruciate ligament, also known as the ACL, connects the femur to the tibia, keeping the femur from sliding backward and the tibia from sliding forward.
- The posterior cruciate ligament, also known as the PCL, keeps the femur from moving forward and the tibia from sliding backward. It works in conjunction with the ACL to stabilize the forward and backward motion of the bones.
- The medial and lateral collateral ligaments control lateral movement. These connect the femur to the tibia and keep the femur from moving sideways.
Your knee also has some wonderful mechanics called cartilage that works as a shock absorber. Between the femur and tibia lie two pieces of cartilage shaped like a C. These are called the menisci, and they are the shock absorbers between the bones.
Without the menisci in place, you end up with bone-on-bone within the knee.
The knee also has small fluid-filled sacs that keep the knee moving smoothly.
Numerous bursae, or fluid-filled sacs, help the knee move smoothly.
When all of the parts of the knee are healthy, they work together beautifully. The ligaments hold the joint in place, the bersa and menisci absorb shock, and the joint works smoothly.
But when one part of the knee breaks down, when a ligament snaps or stretches or a meniscus tears, pain ensues and the knee begins to break down.
Why Wear a Knee Brace?
You must wear a knee brace for a few different reasons. If you are playing a sport where your knee takes a beating, you need to wear a knee brace to protect one of your most precious joints.
After all, if your knee doesn't work, you won't be able to walk, much less play your sport.
With basketball players, in particular, knee injuries are among the most common injuries. Players need the best knee support for basketball.
If you've ever seen a basketball game, you'd understand this. Players drive repeatedly toward the basket and then stop abruptly. They cut laterally, putting extreme stress on the ligaments that hold their knees together.
In particular, an ACL injury often occurs as the result of constant jump and stop motion, something all basketball players do when they play hard.
Thus while they used to be a common injury among mostly soccer and football players, ACL injuries have become common among NBA players in the last decade.
As a result, NBA players who make their living playing this knee-altering sport wear knee braces regularly, even when they haven't been injured. Players wear knee braces preventively to keep their knees in check and prevent ligament damage.
If a player does blow out his knee, he will end up wearing a knee brace to protect his knee from further damage.
Most players want to get back to work after a knee injury. They try to follow the recommendations of rest and rehab. However, they need to earn a paycheck still and don't want their team to drop them.
So they don a brace, grit their teeth, and get back to work. The brace protects them and gives them peace of mind.
Therefore, you want to wear a knee brace when playing basketball to either protect your healthy knees and prevent injury or to protect your repaired knee and prevent reinjury.
What Do NBA Players Wear On Their Knees?
You will see NBA players wearing one of a handful of different types of knee support. One may be wearing a basketball knee brace while others wear basketball knee pads.
NBA players wear a soft knee brace to protect their knees from the start. The sleeve will compress the joint and keep ligaments in line as they put extra stress on them during a game.
If a player injures his knee, he will wear more than just a sleeve. He will need a more structured brace.
An NBA player who is recovering from a knee injury will need a substantial knee brace to keep his knee in check. After all, he makes a living using that knee, so he needs to protect it.
If an NBA player injures his meniscus, he has sustained a less serious injury than a ligament tear. He will still need a brace, but he will need a knee brace for a meniscus tear as opposed to a ligament tear.
A meniscus tear is not as serious. Some people even continue walking on a meniscus tear. NBA players, however, need to have the meniscus repaired and then wear the appropriate brace for it.
What Knee Injuries Require a Brace?
Because the knee is such a complicated joint, you can injure it in many different ways. Each particular injury requires specific treatment. Most require a specific brace.
Sprains and Strains
Knee sprains and strains happen commonly in all sports. When a player overreaches and stretches his ligament, he will feel a sharp pain and may even be unable to walk. This is a sprain.
A doctor will diagnose an injury a sprain if he can see the player has stretched the ligament in his knee but not torn it. Both direct and indirect trauma to the knee can cause a ligament to stretch and thus lead to a knee sprain.
Sprains result from a stretched ligament. Strains, on the other hand, result from a stretched tendon.
Tendons join muscles to bones. Knee strains typically result from overuse. When a player does not care for his knees and continues to beat them up with the same repeated drills and moves, he may suffer from a knee strain.
A basic knee sleeve will help prevent both sprains and strains as it prevents the ligament and tendons from stretching.
Basketball players, in general, are prone to an injury called jumper's knee. Jumper's knee is tendonitis of the tendons in the knee joint.
The main tendon in the knee that often suffers from tendonitis is the patellar tendon. This tendon attaches the patella, commonly known as the knee cap, to the tibia, commonly known as the shinbone. You need this tendon to jump, kick, and run.
If you overuse your knee, your patella flares up, and a doctor will diagnose you with patellar tendonitis or jumper's knee. You rarely need surgery to treat patellar tendonitis, but you do need rest, anti-inflammatory medication, ice, and rehab. A knee brace could help protect your knee from overuse.
Since your meniscus is made of cartilage, it is susceptible to tears. When a basketball player twists his body, reaching for a rebound or diving for a ball, he can easily damage this otherwise tough piece of cartilage.
Meniscus tears are common among the average non-athlete as well. A small tear will not require surgery, but a significant tear will require a scoping procedure where the surgeon clips any hanging pieces of the meniscus.
Small tears require basic treatments of ice, rest, compression, and elevation along with anti-inflammatory meds. Like with all knee injuries, a knee brace can help keep the knee stable and prevent further injuries.
When a basketball player stops suddenly, pivots to change direction quickly, or just lands awkwardly, he puts his ACL at risk. A blown or torn ACL happens when a player twists or hyperextends the knee.
Ligament tears require surgery. Your knee cannot heal itself. A surgeon will use a tissue graft to repair the ligament, and you will need significant time for the knee to heal.
Ligament tear rehabilitation requires a knee brace. Knee braces protect the knee from further injury and keep the knee in alignment.
A blown ACL is the most common knee injury among all athletes. Experts estimate between 100,000 and 200,000 people sustain an ACL injury annually.
Types of Braces for Basketball Injuries
As you can imagine, a sprain, strain, meniscus tear, and blown knee each need a different type of knee brace. The more significant the injury, the more significant of a brace a person needs.
You may see NBA players wearing just knee pads and not knee braces. Knee pads will prevent conclusions or bruises to the patella. They do not have the support a knee brace has, but they also do not have the restriction.
Knee pads can give players confidence to play harder as well without restricting their movement. A basic knee pad on a healthy injury can prevent common knee injuries.
Compression Knee Sleeves
Compression knee sleeves are not knee braces per se. They instead are a sleeve that compresses the tissue surrounding the knee.
Many players who wear a compression sleeve believe the knee speaks back to their brain and gives them the confidence to play harder. Think about it like this: the compression of the sleeve tells your brain your knee is safe. Thus you play harder, cut more quickly, and have improved agility overall.
On the scientific side, the compression does improve the blood flow around the knee and the muscles that surround it. The compression increases the blood flow to the quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles. The blood flow keeps the muscles warm and prevents ligament strains.
So knee sleeves have their place in the world of basketball and the NBA. They look slick, and they feed your brain the message that you do not have to hold back. If you've suffered from an injury, though, you want a knee brace and not just a knee sleeve.
Knee braces increase your stability overall. They are more than a sleeve. They typically have a hard brace sewn into the material creating lateral and anterior support.
Some knee braces even have patella or knee cap support. All of the support serves to keep your joint in line and your pain at bay.
Players who have torn their ACL need a substantial brace like a hinged knee brace. This is a brace that has structured support on either side of the knee with a hinge at the joint.
The knee brace may feel restrictive at points, but ultimately it serves to keep your knee healthy. NBA players recognize this and quickly acclimate to the restriction. The basketball knee support brace can also give a player the confidence to play hard again.
Play With Confidence
Now that you can answer the question of what do NBA players wear on their knees, you can understand why knee braces overall are important. They serve to keep a knee healthy when you work it hard. They give a player the confidence he needs to put his all out on the court.
Basic knee braces and sleeves may be all the knee braces basketball players need to play confidently.
For all of your knee brace needs, contact us.