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When it comes to additional items of clothing the law in rugby is quite clear. From a knee support perspective the ones which apply include:
In addition to the below the banned articles mention:
Given the above you are limited by the type of braces available to you but this is extremely important. The last thing you want to do is wear something which could cause someone an injury following impact but likewise you need to make sure that what you are wearing is fit for purpose.
Interestingly, ankle supports are given a specific mention:
Based on this you can pretty much wear any ankle support available on the market since they are all designed to be worn with footwear. A sprained ankle is number two on the most frequent injuries sustained on the pitch so it’s good to know that a stability brace can be worn to minimise the risk of further injury.
Ultimately the referee will perform an inspection on all clothing articles before the game commences so if you are unsure beforehand then it is best to check first rather than have to take the support off which could result in you either being unable to play or increasing the risk of causing further damage during the game.
Following any injury the first step should always be diagnosis to understand the exact nature of the injury sustained and its severity. Both muscle and ligament injuries are graded in exactly the same way, with a grade one being minor and a grade three being severe.
Treatment options and pathways will differ depending on the grading of the injury and could range from rest at one end to surgery, physiotherapy and bracing at the other end and a mixture of these inbetween.
Once you have a professional diagnosis you’ll be able to select the right brace as wearing the wrong brace can offer no effect or in some cases offer an adverse effect, so if you’re unsure then speak with a medical professional before making a purchase.
In general a knee support can offer compression, stability or both. There are also immobilisation braces which are used post-surgery and whilst rugby players may wear these they certainly won’t be doing it on the field of play.
A compression brace is just that, it works to manage inflammation which can offer pain relieving qualities which can help you remain active for longer and normally comes in a sleeve design. There are also options which include straps that are designed to offer an additional level of compression and keep the brace in place rather than offering any degree of stability.
A stability brace is something normally worm in extreme sports, where the sole intention is to stabilise the knee joint and protect it from further injury. These types of braces are normally rigid by design and manufactured from strong materials such as carbon fibre. Obviously these are not something you would see featuring on a rugby pitch.
Braces offering both compression and stability are normally designed with a hinge so that the brace is able to move with the knee and with straps which help to prevent the joint against movements which could cause damage to the ligaments. These are one of the most popular type of braces offering varying levels of support depending on what you’re looking for and what you’re prepared to pay (with prices ranging from a few pounds to a few hundred).
Where there is damage to the ligaments of the knee a stability brace is often worn to offer that additional level of support when active due to the forces the knee is subjected to, as the last thing you want to do is to make it worse.
First and foremost the type of brace you need is one thing and the type of brace you are allowed to wear is another.
If we refer back to the rugby rule book then the use of braces are permitted, however anything with “buckles, clips, rings, hinges, zippers, screws, bolts or rigid material or projection” are forbidden.
Given this information the only type of brace available would be that of a compressive sleeve as it contains no loving parts. To ensure that you air on the side of caution you can opt for one without any straps.
It may be that you will wear one type of brace during your recovery and then progress to a pitch legal brace further down the line as you return to action but still require a brace. If you are ever unsure as to which brace you should use, if any, then speak with a medical professional.