Knee Braces for Skiing
The anterior cruciate ligament in particular is very difficult to brace for and only the most expensive specialist braces claiming to be effective. There are varying levels of support and comfort available and not everyone needs or is most comfortable in a highly specialist support.
Returning to skiing following an injury can be very daunting. The twisting and lateral forces put through the knee when skiing (or falling!) are the cause of many skiing knee injuries. With this high level of demand being placed on the knee, it is not surprising that many skiers who have previously suffered a knee injury (be it whilst skiing or another sport), decide to opt for a knee brace for their next trip.
Most knee braces are made from neoprene. This is a synthetic rubber which is elastic and so molds to the shape of the joint. It is heat retaining to keep the joint warm (an important feature for skiing!), promote healing and to be long lasting. Many modern supports are also avoiding neoprene which may not be the most comfortable material to wear for long periods.
Knee Braces come in varying levels of protection depending on the requirements of the athlete.
The braces with the highest level of protection are hinged braces. These provide complete protection against twisting and lateral movements of the knee. This is important when skiing following a knee injury, and so hinged braces are usually recommended. Whilst the hinges provide the highest level of support, they also allow a a full range of smooth movement. Injuries for which you may need a hinged brace include ACL, PCL, other ligament ruptures and meniscus injuries.
Other features to look for in a hinged brace include a patella buttress. This is a thickened circular or horseshoe shaped padding, surrounding the patella (knee cap). Its job is to maintain the position of the patella and prevent mal-tracking when bending and straightening the knee. This is beneficial in conditions such as patellofemoral pain or chondromalacia patella.
Medium protection braces have either steel springs or metal or plastic stays embedded in the material down either side of the knee joint. These will help to prevent twisting and sideways movements and tend to be more lightweight and less bulky than their hinged counterparts. This type of brace may also feature a patella buttress (the thickened padding surrounding the patella) to help with tracking of the patella. Injuries for which you may need a medium level support include ligament sprains and patellofemoral pain.
The lowest level of support for knee braces, includes simple neoprene and elastic styles, with no additional supportive structures. This type of support is generally not suitable for skiing, as they provide very little support and no resistance to the twisting and sideways maneuvers which so commonly cause injuries in skiing.