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There are loads of knee braces on the market and they all state different benefits, from the injury prevention ones (prophylactic) to those worn post injury with a view to returning you to your chosen activity. With so many options and so much information, selecting the right one for you can be quite difficult.
Before you open your wallet there are a number of key questions you should ask yourself. You should also check out online reviews and find out what your friends use. All of these things can help you make an informed decision.
The sport you play or want to play has a bearing on the knee brace you might need. If you play football or rugby then the respective associations will not allow you to wear one on the pitch due to the risk it poses to other players (as carbon fibre is pretty strong and your opponent will come off worse every time). Besides the rules, you’re probably best off with a soft knee support offering compression and stability (again check the rules as if it has hinges / hard bits then you're probably not going to be allowed to wear it).
If you’re into mountain biking, motocross, skiing, snowboarding etc then something like the CTi is right up your street as it is designed to withstand everything you can throw at it and more. Carbon fibre is used as a strengthening material (and is also lightweight) so if you take a tumble then your knee will be fully protected.
A CTi however can be used when walking or running to help offer additional stability following injury but you may just need a soft ligament support rather than a rigid carbon fibre model. The choice is yours and your physio may be able to offer additional advice on this.
It depends which injury you wish to manage and is linked to which sport you want to play. If you have a knee strain and want to play tennis then a CTi will protect it but what you really need is a compressive sleeve or a soft support offering ligament stability (something with straps and a hinge). Obviously if you have suffered a knee strain but want to get back out on the slopes then the CTi is going to protect the joint against subsequent injury (and any falls you might have).
The CTi is designed to offer maximum protection against injury and subsequent injury. In extreme sports many wear a knee brace as a preventative measure, the same reason you wear a helmet, protective clothing, neck guards etc. In many sports the use of a rigid knee brace is just part of the standard safety gear.
For some, only once they have suffered from ligament damage do they realise the importance of bracing up as once you’ve had one injury there is an increased risk of it happening again as there is an inherent weakness in the joint and no one wants to suffer more than one ACL rupture. In the long term those who have suffered from ligament damage are more likely to suffer from degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis of the knee.
Statistics show that 40% of all ligament injuries occur as a result of extreme sports, of which damage to the ACL is the most common. It is also a common feature of professional footballers resulting in missing the vast majority of the season.
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is a tough band of tissue joining the thigh and shin bone together at the knee joint. The ligament itself is responsible for stabilisation of the knee joint and general movement. It runs diagonally within the knee joint, attributed for managing the forward and backwards motion of the leg.
There are different products for different injuries.
A damaged ACL can be very painful and the recovery period can be extensive depending on the severity of the injury. A strained ligament can take a few days of rest to heal combined with the use of ice to manage any inflammation, whilst a ruptured ligament can require knee surgery and up to one year on the sidelines combined with extensive physiotherapy. The latter can be career ending for professionals.
For more information on the knee joint and the ligaments within it check out the KNEEguru website.
With so many options available if you are unsure then you should seek a professional diagnosis in the first instance before making a purchase.
Ligament injuries are graded one to three, with one being the least severe and three being the most. The grading refers to the damage of the ligament and whether it is a slight tear, a larger tear or a complete tear (rupture).
Grade One: a minor sprain and typically you’ll see a full recovery within a week as it is largely self-limiting. Following the injury it may be painful and you may notice inflammation of the joint.
Grade Two: where there is a tear in the ligament which will again be painful but can also result in instability of the knee joint, where you are unable to fully weight bear and there is a loss of functionality. This can take up to eight weeks to fully recover from but may require physiotherapy to help with strengthening exercises to ensure that the condition does not worsen, so it is important to manage the condition effectively.
Grade Three: the most severe and where there is a complete rupture of the ligament resulting in a loss of stability and your knee joint moving beyond its normal range of motion i.e. it moves in directions it shouldn’t. Whilst some people do avoid surgery by bracing and working on developing their quads (to counteract the instability) it is often recommend. Surgeons will take a graft from the hamstring or groin to create a new ligament in the event that they are unable to repair the existing one, resulting in a layoff of up to nine months. Post-surgery and initial recovery you will need to work on strengthening the joint to minimise the risk of the condition reappearing.
It is also worth noting that following a grade three ligament injury there is an increased likelihood of it happening again, should you not work to address the situation and also there is an increased risk of developing degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis in the future.
There are two types of knee braces available, in soft supports and rigid supports, which are a reflection of the material used in the manufacturing process.
A soft knee support is typically manufactured from compressive material such as neoprene. These are designed for active use to manage a variety of conditions but offer either compression, stability or both. A compressive knee brace is designed to manage inflammation in the joint to help you remain active for longer. A stability or ligament brace has straps which act as external ligaments whilst also offering compression for complete support of the knee.
A rigid knee brace is designed for extreme sports, the solid nature of the brace is designed to protect against impact damage and subsequent injury. Examples such as the CTi are manufactured from carbon fibre which is lightweight and super strong so that your knee is fully protected should you fall or crash.
The best knee support for ligament damage or injury depends on the extent of the injury sustained (the grading) and the purpose of the support (do you want to walk, run, jump or do all of them?).
Products such as the Form Fit Knee Support can be used to manage mild to moderate knee ligament tears, covering the ACL, PCL, MCL and LCL. It works using a rigid hinge to help fit the knee better and give you additional support post injury, with the straps acting as external ligaments to help manage instability. The compression offered also allows inflammation and pain to be managed as part of the recovery process and making it one of the best options for mild to moderate tears.
For extreme sports you may consider the CTi knee brace, a rigid carbon fibre shell designed to protect the knee joint and associated ligaments by withstanding impact damage in conjunction with maintaining bone alignment. Protection against impact damage is very important when skiing, snowboarding or wakeboarding.
The CTi is worn by amateurs and professionals alike, both to protect the knee from serious injury and to prevent the reoccurrence of an injury. As ligament surgery can leave you out of action for up to one year before being able to train again, extreme sports stars understand the need to protect themselves so they can continue to stay at the top of their chosen sport.
The CTi is available to buy online though it is also possible to have it fitted by a clinical professional (normally the best option if this is your first brace to make sure it is fitted correctly), details of which are listed online.
Aside from the professionals who wear it the knee brace is manufactured from carbon fibre, a lightweight yet super strong material designed to offer maximum protection of the knee joint against impact damage. 40% of all ACL injuries incurred are as a result of extreme sports, an injury which can lead to up to a year on the sidelines so wearing a CTi can protect against injury as well as minimising the risk of a reoccurrence of the injury.
As well as offering protection against injury, the CTi knee brace also works to offer stability of the joint following ligament damage, helping you to get back on your feet and back into the action faster.
If you’re interested in getting a CTi then check out the options online.
With so many braces on the market, making a decision can sometimes be difficult.
What is important before making a purchase is to obtain a diagnosis on the condition to understand its severity as this can have a major bearing on the brace you may select.
We also have an injury diagnosis tool on the Webshop which helps you to identify the root cause of the problem and list the associated braces you may wish to consider.
If you are struggling to make a decision then visit a clinician and discuss your requirements with them as they may be able to suggest the most suitable option for your needs. If you’re looking to spend money on a knee support then you need to ensure it is money well spent, as the wrong support may not work as required.