The use of knee braces, part 1: Prophylactic knee braces in contact sports

Am J Sports Med. 2005 Apr;33(4):602-11. doi: 10.1177/0363546505275128.


Surrogate knee model biomechanical studies have indicated that off-the-shelf braces provide 20% to 30% greater resistance to a lateral blow when the knee is in full extension. Custom functional braces doubled the protective effects and proved effective with the knee in some flexion. Although functional performance studies are not consistent, preventive knee braces may slow straight-ahead sprint speed, cause early fatigue, and increase muscular relaxation pressures, energy expenditure, blood lactate levels, maximal torque output, oxygen consumption, and heart rate. Two epidemiologic studies have been performed. At West Point, a randomized control study of 71 injuries in 1396 cadets indicated knee brace effectiveness with a statistically higher rate of injury in the control group (3.4/1000 exposures) than in the braced group (1.5/1000 exposures), with the most significance for medial collateral ligament sprains in defensive players. The Big Ten Conference conducted a descriptive study of 100 medial collateral ligament sprains among 987 players in different positions, strings, and types of session. Brace-wear tendency varied directly with the unbraced player counterpart's risk of medial collateral ligament sprain, with the nonplayer linemen experiencing both the greatest risk of unbraced practice session injury (0.0801 injuries/1000 exposures) and the highest incidence of brace wear (85%). During practices, there was a nonsignificant but very consistent reduction in injury rate for braced players in every position and string. During games, there was also a reduced rate for linemen and the linebacker/tight end group. The study concluded that although the issue is not closed, preventive knee braces appear to offer some protection to the medial collateral ligament from a contact injury involving a valgus blow, but there may be negative effects on performance level, leg cramping, and fatigue symptoms.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Braces*
  • Cadaver
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Medial Collateral Ligament, Knee / injuries
  • Models, Anatomic
  • Sprains and Strains / prevention & control*