Compare and Contrast ACL Knee Braces
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is
one of the two main stabilizing ligaments in the knee joint. Damage
to the ACL reduces stability of the joint, which increases the risk
of further damage to the knee, in particular the cartilage. Wearing
an ACL brace while the ligament heals after an injury, or following
surgery to repair or reconstruct the ACL, can be an important part of
recovery and rehabilitation.
Braces are available offering various
levels of support ranging from basic to top-of-the-line, custom made
These provide a low level of support at
a reasonable price and are suitable for mild sprains, bruises, or
strains. They come in the form of a knee sleeve, usually made from a
stretchy material such as neoprene, elastic, or Drytex that helps to
keep the knee muscles warm and flexible. They are simple to put on
and wear, and provide gentle compression around the knee, increasing
joint stability. They can be worn for everyday activities and for low
impact sports and are a good choice for people returning to sports
Some conditions that might benefit from
a basic ACL knee brace are light arthritis, minor pain, mild
swelling, minor meniscus tears, and knee bursitis. They are designed
for temporary use after minor injuries or strains, or for longer term
use with mild to moderate knee conditions that need ongoing support.
The next level of brace is designed for
mild to moderate ACL injuries and instability. They provide light
support and a degree of protection. An example is the Donjoy Drytex
Hinged brace. The compression provided by the material around the
knee promotes blood flow, and straps attached with Velcro above and
below the joint hold the brace in position. Hinges stabilize the
joint, keeping the femur and tibia in their correct positions
relative to each other. This particular model has a patellar cut out
to help the kneecap track properly.
A light knee brace is suitable if your
knee is stable after reconstruction.
These are similar to light braces,
combining the compression features of a sleeve with hinges and straps
that keep the knee joint in correct alignment, but providing a
slightly higher level of support. They are suitable for mild to
moderate sprains to mild tears of the ACL, and following ACL
reconstruction. The DonJoy Playmaker is an example. Wearing this
level of brace keeps your knee stable and protected when making
front-to-back, side-to-side, and pivoting movements, allowing you to
play non-contact sports and engage in moderate activity.
Advanced knee braces are for complete
ACL tears or instability.
They are low profile, aluminum, rigid
braces that provide 4-point leverage, locking the knee into a stable
position. This is achieved through the positioning of four straps
that evenly distribute load on the knee. One example of a hinged,
advanced brace is the DonJoy Legend. It provides excellent support,
stability, and protection for the ACL and wearers can play contact
sports or take part in highly athletic activities with confidence.
These provide the highest level of
stability and safety for the ACL and are designed for severe,
complete tears. The 4-point leverage of the advanced braces is
combined with a reinforced frame and some models feature special
hinges. DonJoy Armor eXtreme is an example, and is a popular choice
for athletes participating in high-impact, high-intensity or contact
These are, as the name suggests, custom
made. They need to be fitted by a qualified professional, who
customizes the brace to provide maximum support where it is most
needed. This reduces the time that the knee is in an ‘at risk’
position. They are lightweight and extremely strong, preventing
moderate or severe knee conditions from becoming worse. They are also
suitable for post ACL reconstruction, or for safely participating in
high impact sports and water sports.