Knee braces are used for a wide variety of problems and conditions, but are available in two basic types: functional knee braces and prophylactic (pro-phy-lac-tic) knee braces. What are the differences and what are some of the potential benefits of wearing one?
Functional knee braces are designed to substitute for damaged ligaments, perfect for a patient with an ACL tear. Prophylactic knee braces are used to prevent knee injuries and are worn by athletes in high-risk sports to minimize the risk of knee injury.
“Determining which brace to wear depends upon which ligaments are injured, what sport you are participating in, and what rehabilitation you have done or plan to do,” says Dr. Wilmont R. Kreis, sports medicine specialist at Orthopedic Associates of Port Huron.
Certainly functional knee braces aren’t as good as normal ligaments, although they can help patients with knee ligament injury. Studies show that the braces give some protection to the knee at low loads, but no studies prove that the functional knee braces help in situations of very high forces that occur very quickly.
Prophylactic knee braces are designed to prevent knee injuries in healthy athletes. Studies show that athletes in football have a lower rate of medial collateral ligament injury when wearing a prophylactic knee brace, but the effect of that brace should be placed in perspective. Much more important factors in determining the likelihood of an injury include the sport played and the player’s position, conditioning, and size.
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