Effects of an unloader knee brace on knee-related symptoms and function in people with post-traumatic knee osteoarthritis after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

Knee. 2016 Jan;23(1):85-90. doi: 10.1016/j.knee.2015.05.006.


Background and purpose: This pilot study evaluated the immediate and four-week effects of an unloader knee brace on knee-related symptoms and performance-based function in people with knee osteoarthritis (OA) after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR).

Methods: Individuals with knee OA, five to 20years post-ACLR, were recruited for two within-subject randomized studies: immediate effects (n=18) and four-week effects (n=11). Patient-reported knee-related symptoms (knee pain, perceived task difficulty, confidence, stability) were assessed during hop for distance and step-down tests, while performance-based function was assessed with hopping distance under three conditions: i) no brace; ii) unadjusted brace (sagittal plane support); and iii) adjusted brace (sagittal plane support with varus/valgus readjustment). Participants in the four-week brace effect study were randomized to wear the unadjusted or adjusted brace for four weeks after baseline (no brace) testing, and repeated tests in their allocated brace at four-week follow-up. Friedman tests evaluated differences between the three brace conditions for each variable for the immediate brace effect study (p<0.05), and Wilcoxon signed-rank tests evaluated differences between no brace and allocated brace for the four-week study (p<0.05).

Results: The adjusted and unadjusted unloader braces produced immediate improvements in knee confidence during hop for distance, and knee pain during step-down. Following the four-week brace intervention, the allocated brace improved knee confidence, perceived task difficulty and stability during hop for distance; and knee pain, perceived task difficulty, confidence, and stability during step-down.

Conclusions: The unloader knee brace, adjusted or unadjusted, has the potential to improve knee-related symptoms associated with knee OA after ACLR.

Keywords: Function; Knee brace; Osteoarthritis; Rehabilitation; Symptoms.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Braces*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gait / physiology
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / complications*
  • Knee Injuries / physiopathology
  • Knee Injuries / surgery
  • Knee Joint / physiopathology*
  • Knee Joint / surgery
  • Male
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / etiology*
  • Osteoarthritis, Knee / physiopathology
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Postoperative / diagnosis
  • Pain, Postoperative / physiopathology
  • Pain, Postoperative / rehabilitation*
  • Prognosis
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult