Q: After tearing my ACL during an off-road motorcycling event, I decided to start wearing a brace on that knee. Which one do you recommend?
A: When it comes to wearing braces prophylactically (as a preventive measure) during sports activities, things have changed quite a bit over the years. Sports enthusiasts in this area have gone from wondering if it's really worth it to wear a brace to prevent knee injuries to recommending them routinely.
As a result, manufacturers have come out with many off-the-shelf as well as custom-made knee braces designed just for off-road biking. In fact, changes in design and specificity of prophylactic knee braces have been made for participants in other sports as well.
The wide variety of knee braces available actually makes it difficult (if not impossible) to compare them and find out which one works best. Studies done so far have shown that all of the braces reduce the strain on the knee by at least 20 to 30 per cent. In fact, riders who do not wear a knee brace are twice as likely to suffer knee injuries compared with those who do wear the brace.
Experts suggest the effect is probably more than the 30 per cent strain reduction tested so far. Braces on the market today clearly have greater protective effect than the ones available 20 years ago.
Wearing any of them is likely to be effective. The risk of injury will be reduced when using the knee as a pivot coming around a corner at a high rate of speed or when landing with the knee over extended after a high-speed jump. That alone would be worth the price of purchase.
Reference: Mark S. Sanders, MD, et al. Knee Injuries and the Use of Prophylactic Knee Bracing in Off-Road Motorcycling. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. July 2011. Vol. 39. No. 7. Pp. 1395-1400.