The simple answer is that it depends. It depends on the injury you wish to manage or prevent against and the sport you want to play. There are a variety of options on the market and it’s important that you answer these key questions before making a purchase to ensure you get a product which is fit for purpose.
Which injury are you looking to manage?
There are different products for different injuries. If you’re looking to manage inflammation then you may simply need a compression sleeve. If you’re looking to manage ligament damage then look at a strapped brace. If you’re looking to manage something likes runners knee then you may need a knee band. If you need to manage ACL damage then you should consider an ACL brace.
With so many options available if you are unsure then you should seek a professional diagnosis in the first instance before making a purchase.
Are you looking to wear a knee brace prophylactically?
The majority of products on the market are for post injury use, typically in the soft support market, and you wouldn’t wear these as a preventative measure. Prophylactic bracing is something seen in extreme sports rather than in football or when running, as in the former there is a greater chance of injury due to the nature of the sport.
In the likes of snowboarding, motocross and wakeboarding the chances of injury are high which is why many opt to wear protective clothing, padding and of course a rigid knee brace. This type of product is designed for the prophylactic and post injury market and is used in extreme sports by professionals and amateurs alike.
Are you looking for a soft or a rigid knee brace?
There are two types of knee braces available in soft supports and rigid supports, which are a reflection of the material used in the manufacturing process.
A soft knee support is typically manufactured from compressive material such as neoprene. These are designed for active use to manage a variety of conditions but primarily offer either compression, stability or both. A compressive knee brace is designed to manage inflammation in the joint when active to help you remain active for longer. A stability or ligament brace has straps which act as external ligaments whilst also offering compression for complete support of the knee.
A rigid knee brace is designed for extreme sports, the solid nature of the brace is designed to protect against impact damage and subsequent injury. Examples such as the CTi are manufactured from carbon fibre which is lightweight and super strong so that your knee is fully protected should you fall or crash.
What sport are you looking to use it in?
When considering soft supports you need to understand the rules and regulations of the sport in order to understand which brace you are allowed to wear. In football for instance a hinged knee brace contravenes FA rules as the hinge could cause damage to opponents, though a compressive sleeve is something which is allowed. You should check with your professional body before making a purchase.
Soft supports are typically used outside of extreme sports and rigid bracing is used in extreme sports, since it is all about protection. If you are looking to manage an injury and protect against impact damage then go rigid with something like an ACL brace, if you’re simply looking to remain active then go soft.