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knee-brace

Braces come in various types, each serving a specific purpose:

Prophylactic Braces: These are designed to prevent knee injuries during contact sports like football. However, the use of prophylactic knee braces lacks conclusive research supporting their effectiveness. Despite this, many athletes and coaches still opt for them, often wearing them during practices rather than games due to concerns about potential performance limitations. When choosing a prophylactic knee brace, it’s advisable to try on several and ensure a proper fit. Regular tightening of straps and avoiding the use of damaged braces is crucial.

Functional Braces: Specifically crafted to provide stability post an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, functional knee braces are available in custom or pre-sized models. Accurate sizing is paramount to limit brace movement and enhance its effectiveness. These braces can be valuable in aiding rehabilitation after ACL surgery. However, it’s essential to remember that while functional knee braces can be helpful, the key to treating ligamentous knee injuries lies in lower extremity muscle strengthening, flexibility improvements, and refining techniques.

Patellofemoral Braces: Often associated with anterior knee pain resulting from the misalignment of the patellofemoral joint, these braces resist lateral displacement of the patella, maintaining alignment and reducing knee pain. Typically made from elastic materials like neoprene, they are affordable, easy to use, and widely available. While patellofemoral braces can decrease anterior knee pain, combining them with physiotherapy treatments is crucial for a comprehensive approach.

Additionally, a recent systematic review on knee braces highlighted their efficacy of, especially unloading braces when combined with standard care, in enhancing both function and pain management among individuals with medial knee osteoarthritis. Braces with flexible adjustments, excluding patellar cutout, demonstrated positive outcomes in functional assessments, emphasizing their dual impact on improving function and alleviating discomfort. Another clinical trial by the International Osteoarthritis Research Society demonstrated that the combination of an ODRA brace and usual care is statistically associated with improvements in pain, function, and some aspects of osteoarthritis health-related quality of life at 1 year in comparison with usual care alone. They also confirmed the good safety profile of the unloader knee brace. Finally, the ODRA brace seems to be cost-effective, as suggested by the cost-utility analysis.

In the broader context, the effectiveness of knee braces tends to vary among individuals. However, the emphasis on activities promoting flexibility, muscle strengthening, and technique refinement remains paramount to prevent and alleviate knee pain. Implementing gradual changes in exercise intensity is essential to minimize stress on the knees. Collaborating with a physical therapist to tailor an exercise plan can significantly reduce the likelihood of knee problems and diminish the reliance on knee braces.

References

1. Khosravi M, Babaee T, Daryabor A, Jalali M. Effect of knee braces and insoles on clinical outcomes of individuals with medial knee osteoarthritis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Assist Technol. 2022;34(5):501-517. doi:10.1080/10400435.2021.1880495

2. Gueugnon M, Fournel I, Soilly AL, et al. Effectiveness, safety, and cost-utility of a knee brace in medial knee osteoarthritis: the ERGONOMIE randomized controlled trial. Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2021;29(4):491-501. doi:10.1016/j.joca.2020.11.009

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