The anterior cruciate ligament is one of the most commonly injured ligaments in the knee.
The function of the ACL is to prevent excessive forward movement of the lower leg in relationship to the thigh, as well as limits rotational movements at the knee joint.
The ACL ligament is one of 4 important ligaments that stabilize the knee and prevent excessive or abnormal range of motion. Football, due to its high impact and high contact movements makes it one of the most common sports with ACL ligament sprains and tears. The question then arises that if there are so many of these types of injuries, why is there not more attention addressing the need for protective bracing.
Over the last decade, there has been more awareness of the need to protect the knee during these types of high contact and high impact sports. Many professional football players have utilized rigid knee braces following ACL surgery to continue their careers. As more studies are done, and the technology improves regarding the materials used in brace construction, it has become apparent that more athletes, both amateur and professional are wearing knee braces for both preventative purposes and after ACL surgery. More coaches and trainers have recommended braces to their players, especially those with previous knee injuries or instabilities.
Most ACL braces for football usually are metal or carbon fiber framed braces. This provides the maximum support level that can be obtained, without restricting movement of the knee joint. Fabric hinged braces are available for ACL protection, but they are limited in support, due to the flexibility of the material.
It must be understood that braces do not prevent injuries. Like airbags in a car, they reduce the severity of the injury. So if an athlete is going to be injured, the idea is to reduce the severity of the injury with additional support, thereby improving the prognosis and recovery period.
There have been arguments regarding the use of braces causing muscle atrophy, bone loss and weakness due to wearing knee braces. Although prolonged use of a brace can have such implications, there is no data to demonstrate that short term use during play or practice causes these types of complications. The risk of injury and surgery usually far outweigh any potential issue of short term muscle atrophy.
There will always be controversy regarding the use of these devices and the true effectiveness in protecting and stabilizing the knee during football. It is strongly advised that you consult with your physician, coach or trainer to determine if you would benefit from a knee brace.
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