Knee Braces for ACL Injuries
ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear is one of the most common knee injuries. The ACL is a tissue that connects the femur and the tibia which helps to stabilize the knee joint. ACL injury is a sports-related injury which often caused by a sudden twisting motion in contact sports when you are making change in the direction against a locked knee. Hence wearing a hinged knee brace or ROM (range of motion) knee brace is especially important for mild to moderate ACL tears because it helps control or adjust the range of motion for protection and rehabilitation after ACL injury or ACL reconstruction surgery.
What Type of Knee Brace is Best for Torn ACL Support?
Hinged knee braces are generally built with metal hinges for ligament stability and extra support to the knee. It provides the most important feature that can restrict the degree of flexion of the knee joint after the ACL injury. The design helps to prevent your knee from bending laterally. Some of the hinged knee braces are specially designed with two hinges on each side of the knee brace to offer maximum support and stability to the knee joint and prevent unnatural motions that may injure or re-injure the ACL.
Types of ACL Knee Braces and Features
Exercises during ACL injury recovery is crucial to strengthen the thigh muscles and recover the knee’s function and strength. Hinged knee braces for ACL safeguard your knees from re-injury and keep it away from unnatural movements during contact sports as well as providing essential ACL support during recovery.
There are 4 main types of hinged knee braces you can wear after ACL injury that can provide support and stability to the knee and help to relieve pressure away from the ligaments for different intended uses:
- Prophylactic braces safeguard the knees from ligament injuries during contact sports.
- Functional braces provide additional support and stability for already injured knees with a torn ACL until full recovery.
- Rehabilitative braces limit knee range of movement of flexion and extension to reduce rotation after ACL injury or surgery.
- Unloader/off-loader braces are designed to unload stress from the injured knee joint by transferring the pressure on the thigh bone. It helps the knee to bend away from the injured and painful area. These braces are especially helpful for patients who want to take the pressure off their knees for pain relief.
Hinged knee braces are specially designed for ACL support are featured for protecting the injured knee from abnormal loads and limit harmful motions on the knee. It can provide support ligaments and improve combined instabilities and it’s built with anatomically-correct hinges with extension stops to allow the required range of motion for your knee but prevent over-stretching of the ligaments.
Tips for ACL injury prevention
ACL injuries are generally caused when you pivot or bend at the knees and hips that can damage the ACL or the transition from sprinting to make a sudden stop can overstress the ACL to cause serious injury. Strengthening the muscles surround the knees can help to prevent a torn ACL. Doing rehab exercises by following your physical therapist’s advice will help you regain muscle power and improve your knees’ strength and stability.
However, overcoming muscle atrophy or muscle weakness after ACL reconstruction is a challenging and time-consuming process. Start exercising too soon after surgery is likely to re-injure the ACL, it’s recommended consult your doctor for medical advice about whether you should wear a hinged knee brace for rehab exercises and when you should start doing that. You can find out more about ACL recovery timeline here.
Depending on the severity of the torn ACL, some patients can start walking or exercising 2 weeks or 1 month after the surgery. Hinged knee braces for ACL can protect your injured knee for injury recovery and reduce the chance of a future ACL injury.
Hinged knee braces with an adjustable range of motion are ideal for limiting unnatural motions while having the options to adjust the ROM angle. The knee is like a hinge joint that mainly moves in one plane of movement of flexion and extension, other unnatural movements can potentially harm the ligaments. The adjustable ROM angle feature on hinged knee braces can restrict some unnatural knee movements to protect your knee during rehabilitation while having the flexibility to control range of motion by adjusting flexion limitation, extension limitation and immobilization limitation based on your needs or the medical advice from your doctor.
How to clean an ACL knee brace?
Most of the knee braces that are designed for ACL support have hinges that can be removed before machine wash in cold water then air dry.
Do hinged knee braces help prevent ACL tears?
ACL tears often caused during contact when your knee joint is bent backward, side to side or twisted. Hinged knee braces can limit knee movements that may injure your knee during rehabilitation. It’s ideal for controlling the range of motion and stabilization of ACL injury.
The hinges prevent the knee from moving in directions that may injure or re-injure ACL or other ligaments. Some of the hinged knee braces are equipped with polycentric hinged with an adjustable range of motion limitation so it can protect and support your knee while having the flexibility to set your own desired range of motion for flexion and extension.
Can I wear a hinged knee brace for running or contact sports?
A hinged knee brace is made by lightweight and flexible materials which is comfortable enough to wear over long hours for running and contact sports. Most of the hinged knee braces are adjustable for ideal fitting to stay in place all day.
How to measure for hinged knee brace?
Not all hinged knee braces for ACL injury are measured in the same way. Please make sure to check the size chart before purchasing. Similar to the measurement for most of the knee brace. A hinged knee brace is generally measured by upper circumference around your leg at 6" above the middle of the kneecap or lower circumference around 6" below the kneecap.
It’s recommended to choose a relatively tight size to make sure the hinged knee brace can limit the range of motion properly but not too tight because it may cut off circulation and potentially result in swelling and numbness.