Best Knee Braces for Football
Knee injuries in sports are on the rise, particularly in young athletes. Due to the high-impact nature of the sport, football players are constantly at risk of injury. Injuries to the knees are common in sports where athletes are constantly coming into contact with other players, stopping suddenly, and changing directions frequently (like football).
In general, the knee is one of the most frequently injured areas of the body. For football players, one of the best ways to prevent injury, avoid further aggravating an injury or to help with recovery following injury or after surgery is a knee brace. It’s important to understand the different categories of knee injury and how a brace can help prior to picking the best knee support for football. The three main factors that contribute to knee injury risk in football are the player’s age, history of previous injury, and the strength of the ligaments in the knee.
We’ll get straight into the reviews of the best knee braces for football players so that you can see some of the different types of braces available. We have tried to highlight some of the most popular knee braces at different price points, giving you an idea of value and what may be appropriate for your individual injury and budget. For a more comprehensive understanding of common knee injuries in football and how knee braces can help you recover from/prevent future injuries, please see the information below the reviews.
Our Top Picks of Football Knee Braces in 2020
The THT Galaxy knee brace is substantially less costly than a lot of other knee braces out there. Despite its low cost, this is a strong, sturdy knee brace for football and many customers have noted that it isn’t uncomfortable like other knee braces at a similar price point.
The straps and stitching on this knee brace are strong enough to keep it from moving around during intense exercise, or long training bouts. The breathable neoprene material is easily washable, but does a great job sticking and providing adequate tension, and moreover, it doesn’t lose its shape over time. While this knee brace doesn’t boast any advanced features, some very minor practical additions are likely what has allowed it to become a fan favorite. For example, the three piece bandages actually come with 5 Velro pieces for a stronger and more customizable fit. Most other knee braces of this type come with the same number of Velcro pieces as there are straps (3). Additionally, this knee brace support comes with an open patella design, further allowing for good fit and mobility, while still providing stabilization where necessary. Lastly, this knee support is available in a number of different colors, which can be a nice touch if you have a matching uniform.
Overall, this is a really cheap knee brace for football players, but the quality is good especially considering this low cost. It’s an ideal option for those who just need a little extra support for the later stages of recovery or injury prevention. However, if you’re still concerned about the current stability of your knee, and you think you may need something a little more robust, it’s probably better to play it safe and look for something a little beefier. In any case, it’s always recommended to check with your doctor first about the severity of your knee injury and what type of brace may be most beneficial for your personal situation.
DonJoy Armor Knee Brace with Hinge (Best Option For Football Lineman)
This strong DonJoy Armor hinge-type knee brace is commonly used to treat or prevent movement of the knee due to ACL instability, to assist with recovery following reconstruction, and to prevent hyperextension and PCL aggravation.
This knee brace is designed for contact sports and the manufacturer claims that it is a commonly used by linemen in college football. The cost may be a deterrent to some buyers, as it’s at the upper end for knee braces, but the high-quality aircraft-grade aluminum means that this brace is deserving of the pricetag. Unfortunately, braces of this sort cannot be used on both the right and left knee, so be sure to order the correct one for your injury.
Part of the reason this knee brace is ideal for football players is the extremely strong high-quality 4-Points-of-Leverage system that does not sacrifice weight. Additionally, instead of simply stopping your range of motion at a certain point, this knee brace promotes natural gait patterns and rehabilitation by providing progressive resistance near the end points of your range of motion before finally providing a firm stop. Additionally, the brace can be molded and the swiveling strap pads both help provide a personalized fit.
Overall, this is arguably one of the best knee braces for football, especially if ACL injuries are the primary focus of recovery and/or prevention. The material is exceptionally strong and lightweight, allowing for a sleek and simple design that is really easy to get used to wearing while playing football. The main downsides are the very high cost as well as its inability to be worn on each leg interchangeably. However, if you need an ACL brace, with the most protection, then this is definitely a top-notch option for football players.
The Tech Ware Pro knee brace is an open patella design and is a smaller, sleeker knee brace than a knee brace with hinged support. This means that it may be more useful to someone with a less serious injury requiring a lower degree of stabilization, or an injury that is further along in the recovery process.
Several customers have commented on durability of the brace, noting that the material is tough and long-lasting, but doesn’t restrict movement and natural range of motion or cause chaffing an wear to the skin below. Additionally, the bi-lateral support straps are a nice touch, as this instills confidence for a good symmetrical fit. Many knee braces of this type will come with uni-lateral support straps, which are usually fine, but when used improperly can lead to unbalanced support.
One downside is that the Tech Ware Pro only comes in two sizes – large and extra-large. While they state that the large will fit most individuals, it likely won’t provide the most snug and anatomical fit for smaller, younger athletes or women.
Overall, this is a very well-liked knee brace that offers great value. While it doesn’t provide the absolute support of a solid hinged knee brace, it definitely packs a punch for its size, providing a surprising amount of all-around support. This knee brace could be a great option for football players looking to progress from something more stable to something that simply provides a little added support. Again, just double-check with your doctor or physiotherapist that this is a suitable knee brace for your particular injury. If so, then we highly recommend it!
The McDavid 422 dual-hinge knee brace can fit either knee and has an extra long sleeve. The hinges at the knee provide superior support and protection. At only 2 lbs, this brace won’t feel heavy and slow you down during activity, making it great for running backs. Due to the fact that this product fairly robust and isn’t too expensive, most customers find it to be one of the best knee braces for your money.
The sturdy design means that you’ll get extra support compared to a neoprene brace. The extra long sleeve and the adjustability means that accurately sizing of this brace is important, but small adjustments can be made to optimize the fit with your knee.
Many people consider this to be one of the classic go-to knee braces for any sport, and is definitely suitable for football players. That being said, it’s still worth noting that McDavid does improve on existing braces with time, which continuously helps assure that you’re getting one of the best knee braces. For example, recent improvements with this model include wider hinge arms to aid in strength, but they still maintain the nice lightweight design. Also, the bound edges are a really practical feature, as they help prevent skin irritation, and combined with the perforated back panel, these features help increase your level of comfort while wearing the brace.
Overall, this is a good knee brace for football players and other athletes alike. The McDavid 422 dual-hinge knee brace is very well-liked by numerous athletes, and for the cost it’s certainly hard to beat. Moreover, McDavid is a highly reliable brand, and its design promotes and all-around ability to stabilize and support the knee during rehab or on the field.
The Shock Doctor 875 knee brace includes a neoprene sleeve, stretch mesh, aluminum hinges, and 4-way strap system to maximize stability. Although the Shock Doctor is a fairly heavy duty brace, the mesh system allows for comfortable heat ventilation while the vented neoprene provides good moisture-wicking ability.
This is an advanced knee brace and can provide support for moderate to major sprains and knee instability. This product is a bit snug at first but should break in with a few days of exercise. Customers who have used this product long-term are happy with the stability it provides without restricting natural movement of the knee brace.
In the case of this football knee brace, Shock Doctor has included some recent innovation in the form of their patent-pending X-Fit strap system to help provide strong, yet comfortable, support. The tempered aluminum stability system stays securely anchored with the Hypalon sleeves, and the bilateral support hinges come with a hyperextension stopper and impact absorbing base pads. The only potential issue for football players is that the thigh portion is slightly thicker than some other knee braces, so it may require some adjustment of your lowers to fit comfortably, but this can be done fairly easily.
Overall, this knee brace is great for football and is comparable with the McDavid 422 knee brace that we reviewed above, especially in terms of cost. The main differences in this Shock Doctor knee brace are in the strength and durability, which is known to be top-notch, but it comes at the cost of a slightly heavier and more rugged design. Depending on the nature of your injury, this could be great, or on the other hand it could be a little over-the-top, but in general, this is a great knee brace for football. Shock doctor has listed a lot more information on their Amazon page with information specific to different knee injuries, so feel free to check that out as well!
Common Knee Injuries in Football
Grades of Knee Ligament Sprains
Injuries to ligaments are graded on a scale of 3. A Grade 1 sprain is a mild injury where the ligament is stretched, but the ligament is still able to hold your knee stable. A Grade 2 sprain may be referred to as a partial tear and means that the ligament is loose and the knee joint has become unstable. A Grade 3 sprain is when the ligament is severed in two (a complete tear).
ACl and PCL Injuries in Football
Posterior view (from behind) the knee. The ACL prevents your tibia (shin) from moving too far forward with respect to your femur (thigh).
One of the most common areas of injury is a sprain or tear to the ACL. The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is the ligament helps stabilize the knee during movement and attaches to the bone of the upper leg (femur) and the large bone of the lower leg (tibia). Common ways of injuring the ACL is a rapid change in direction, stopping quickly, decelerating (slowing down) while running, a collision with another player, and landing awkwardly after a jump.
A less commonly discussed ligament is the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). This ligament is not injured at such high rates as the ACL. The PCL runs opposite to the ACL, criss-crossing in the middle of the knee. While the ACL prevents the femur to slide forward past the lower leg, the PCL does the opposite, stopping the lower leg from sliding backwards underneath the upper leg. Due to the orientation of this ligament, the most common mechanism for PCL injuries in football players is direct impact with knee causing hyperextension.
MCL Injuries in Football
Posterior view (from behind) of the right knee. MCL and LCL are labelled accordingly. While the MCL is on the inside and appears to be more protected, it is commonly injured to due hits on the outside of the knee, which causes the MCL to stretch and potentially tear. Injury to any of these ligaments will lead to a less stable knee joint.
The MCL (medial collateral ligament) runs along the outside of the knee to prevent buckling inwards and also attaches to the femur and tibia. This means that the MCL can be injured when another players falls on to or hits the outside of your knee. As with other ligaments, the MCL can also be damaged during sudden movements or muscle contractions. Linemen commonly suffer MCL sprains. A 1992 study found that MCL injuries are high in linemen during passing plays, particularly on Astroturf.
LCL injuries, while possible, are far less common in sports like football. Typically, hits are usually received on the outer portions of the legs. For example, if someone tackles you low on the outside of your knee, your knee will bend inwards placing more tension on the inside of your knee where the MCL is located, while the LCL remains pretty much unaffected. Simply put, it’s more difficult to place the LCL in enough tension to cause a tear, but it definitely is possible, and when it occurs it’s usually in combination with damage to more than one structure in the knee.
Torn Meniscus Injuries in Football
Injury to the ligaments of the knee and the resultant instability can result in injury to the meniscus of the knee. The menisci are two fibrous but rubbery pads of cartilage that act as a shock absorber between the femur and tibia. Meniscal tears are a very common knee injury and can happen at any age. The cause of meniscal tears can be varied; sudden movements and unexpected impacts are common mechanisms. The cartilage that make up the menisci can also deteriorate with age and physical activity which means that even the most innocuous movement or impact is able to cause a meniscal tear.
How do knee braces prevent injury?
Knowing the ways in which knee braces prevent injury is important to picking the best knee support for football. In general, knee braces support the knee joint and surrounding ligaments. Maintaining the natural position of the knee is important to avoid aggravating an existing injury or reinjuring the same area. This support prevents the knee ligaments from being unnecessarily stressed or strained. For those players at risk of injury or who have had mild injuries and knee pain, knee braces can be used to prevent a more serious injury from occurring.
If you’re recovering from an injury and are ready to begin training or participating in games, a knee brace can be one of the best tools. Knee braces are very commonly used following surgery to repair serious damage to the knee. Wearing a knee brace as part of a rehabilitation program with stretching and strengthening exercises can provide the compression and stability needed for the best recovery from injury.
Types of Knee Braces
There are several different types of knee braces: closed patellar, open patellar, hinged knee braces, and adjustable stabilizing supports. Most knee braces consist of stretchy neoprene or similar material with supporting metal and hinges to guide the knee through regular movement. The type of knee braces used can depend on several factors: the type and severity of injury, the sport you participate in, your history with other injuries, and your body size.
After surgery, the rehabilitative braces used can be quite large and cumbersome. For other less serious injuries a knee compression sleeve might be recommended. Athletes diagnosed with knee tendonitis sometimes wear a smaller brace that wraps around their leg below the kneecap to prevent wearing of the tendon.
Should Offensive and/or Defensive Linemen Wear Knee Brace?
It’s becoming more and more common for offensive linemen who have never suffered a knee injury to wear braces. So the question is why is it becoming a trend and should linemen wear a preventative knee brace?
A few years ago there was an article written about why the legendary NFL coach Bill Belichick asks his linemen to wear braces. The Patriot’s believe that knee braces can often save O-linemen from season ending knee injuries.
You could probably take that one step further for high school and college players, a knee injury may not just mean the end of the season it might mean the end of their career. NFL players have the luxury of having world class staff to help them along with their rehab. College players, playing at major programs would often have that same luxury but for guy’s playing high school or at a smaller college they don’t have access to the same type of resources.
The studies are inconclusive as to whether or not knee braces reduce severity and the frequency of knee injuries. There are a number of outside factors which are difficult to control for a study like this; undoubtedly the game has gotten faster and more violent since these studies began and now there are more rules to protect players knees have been added.
One of the greatest coaches, who has been around the game his entire life believes wearing a brace helps prevents knee injuries for his offensive linemen. If I were an O-linemen I certainly would wear one.
Other groups that may consider bracing up as a protective measure are d-linemen, tight ends and linebackers