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Water Sports: Knee Strength & Recommended Braces

Anyone that has taken a spill when wakeboarding or water skiing will tell you that water isn't as soft as it seems. Not only can falling at 40+mph hurt, but it can also wreak havoc on joints, especially knees. Athletes who wish to continue water skiing, wakeboarding or surfing throughout their lives need to take some precautions to protect these vulnerable joints.

Here is our comprehensive guide to keeping your knees in tip top shape for water sports of all kinds.

Recommended Exercises for Water Sports Knee Health

OA of the knee is characterized by a gradual degeneration of joint cartilage in the knee. Healthy cartilage serves the important functions of enabling smooth movement while providing a protective cushion between bones. Without this protective layer, bones will experience undue wear and tear. Some of the most common causes of this condition include:

Strengthen Your Muscles

First and most importantly, the muscles around the knee must be strong in order to safely participate in water sports. An athlete’s own muscles are the best defense against injury. Anyone who feels unstable in the water must first consider exercising and lifting weights to strengthen the knees. No man-made device can replace an athlete’s own muscles. Below are four key exercises to practice that will increase your strength and prepare you to feel confident when you’re on the water.

Box Jumps

Jumping is an explosive movement that builds muscle and stability quickly. Box jumps are one of the best jumping exercises out there! Simply place a training box in front of you and hop up onto it using both feet and then step back down. You can get a higher box as you get better at the movement or try doing one legged box jumps to increase the difficulty. This is a great exercise that will prepare your knees for impacts on the water.

Leg Curls

Another great exercise to practice is leg curls. Because hamstring muscles help stabilize your knee, it's important to keep them strong. Leg curls help isolate the hamstring and strengthen them very effectively. Better yet, there are tons of different ways to do this exercise. If you have access to a gym, simply using a leg curl machine is the easiest. If you want to add in an element of balance to the exercise, you can use a stability ball to get your core involved as shown in this video.


Squats are the holy grail of leg and core exercises. It’s important to maintain proper squat form to ward off injury, however. Once you have your form down, there is no better exercise for a total body workout. If you're new to squats, it is perfectly fine to forego the extra weight on your back and focus on your form using high repetitions. Remember that your goal is to strengthen your knees for water sports, which will be difficult if you injure yourself when you're working out.

Stationary Bike

The thing we love most about stationary bikes is that you can adjust the resistance, which will give your knees a serious workout with a low risk of injury. Bikes work all of your leg muscles, giving your knee much needed support.

The Best Knee Braces for Watersports

Sometimes a previous injury, such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), or a precaution against the sheer force of the water necessitates adding a brace to already bulked-up knees.

In fact, many athletes wear braces while participating in extreme sports. Phil Solven won three King of Wake and Mastercraft Pro Tour titles while wearing a water sports knee brace. This was after he tore his ACL, testifying to the strength and quality of today’s ACL knee braces. Many knee braces cover the market; however, some braces stand out above the rest.

These are our top three braces for knee support:

DonJoy FullForce Knee Brace

The DonJoy FullForce Knee Brace is a lightweight brace that provides ligament stability and significantly reduces ACL strain. Wakeboarders love how DonJoy’s FourcePoint hinge dampens knee joint extension, which increases flexion angles and reduces anterior shear forces on the tibia. The ForcePoint hinge results in less strain on the ACL and a decrease in the change of injury.

DonJoy Reaction Web Knee Brace

The DonJoy Reaction Web Knee Brace is a less expensive brace that still provides exceptional support and protection from injuries. It also provides progressive pain relief and sustained comfort. The elastomeric web design absorbs shock and shifts the peak loads away form the painful area of the knee. This dispersion of energy helps reduce the anterior knee pain you suffer from. Water sport enthusiasts love how comfortable, breathable and lightweight this brace is.

Ossur CTi OTS Ligament Knee Brace

While there are several knee braces that provide ligament support during water sports, the Ossur CTi OTS Ligament Knee Brace offers the highest level of protection and comfort. That is what makes the CTi Ligament Knee Brace our top pick. The waterproof knee brace is designed with anatomically-correct Accutrac hinges, flexible cuffs and buckles allowing the joint to naturally move while protecting the knee from irregular knee angles associated with high speed crashes. The carbon composite frame coupled with a flexible subshell, adjustable tibial straps and breathable liners ensures the waterproof knee brace remains properly positioned on the knee. Ossur CTi® OTS Ligament Knee brace has been graded for all activity levels and provides support to the ACL, MCL, LCL and PCL ligaments.

The purpose of each one of the braces listed above is stability during athletic activity, not curing achy joints and other pain. For these conditions, neoprene braces designed to securely hold the joints and ligaments may be all that is necessary. In addition, the warmth provided by a simple neoprene brace may help alleviate pain. Always remember to consult your doctor before trying a new solution for your knee pain.