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Low Impact Exercises to Stay in Shape During Recovery

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 braces.


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 post injury.

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 sports.


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.