Controversy over the effectiveness of ACL brace following ACL reconstruction surgery continues…
THE ACL BRACE DEBATE
Some experts say that there is little scientific evidence that an ACL brace provides protection from further injury or additional support during recovery. However, many surgeons prescribe the use of a knee brace post-operatively for a limited time; no more than one to two months. Surgeons agree that prolonged use of a knee brace contributes to muscle atrophy of the quadriceps and may do more harm than good. It should also be understood that a knee brace must be properly fitted to be effective.
Reasons given by doctors for the temporary use of a knee brace following surgery include:
- Pain control
- Protection of the graft site while healing
- Prevent the knee from moving inappropriately.
- May provide the patient increased feeling of security.
THE ACL BRACE MARKET
A cursory Google search reveals a bewildering array of ACL knee braces available. Anyone considering purchasing one would be well advised to do some homework and consult with a trusted medical expert.
If the marketing claims are to be believed, there is an ACL brace on the market for virtually every application. Braces range from light-weight over the counter types to ones custom-made and fitted under medical supervision.
One site, (http://www.betterbraces.com/acl-brace-for-knee-stability) offers five different types:
- Every day and low impact brace – promises increased support and comfort
- Intermediate level knee brace – claims to protect the knee during pivotal motions – for those returning to moderate sports activities.
- Light-weight support brace for non-contact sports – claims to prevent further injury
- Sturdy, low profile braces – made with aircraft quality aluminum and covered hinges, suitable for contact sports and skiing.
- Custom knee brace – for high impact and water sports.
There is even a prophylactic knee brace whose purpose is to prevent an injury from happening in the first place. First introduced in the early 70’s, this device is endorsed by the NFL.
Most manufacturers claim that use of their braces will protect from re-injury and/or prevent an existing injury from worsening.
Despite the hype, the use of ACL brace may be warranted in the early stages of recovery. It may also be effective in stabilizing the knee prior to surgery. Opinions on the long term use of these devices are clearly divided. Disadvantages are that the ACL brace may be uncomfortable, and chafing during exercise may cause pressure points and sores. Also, some experts believe that reliance on a brace could lead to over-confidence and thus increase, rather than decrease the risk of further injury.
Despite this, many professional athletes endorse the use of ACL braces.