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Knee Supports for Skiing

March 27th 12:49pm

Knee supports and braces are commonly worn by skiers to protect an existing injury or prevent a new one. There are many different types of knee support available and which one to get depends on numerous factors such as your injury, how much support you need, how much you want to spend, what size you require, what material you prefer and if you want a pull-on or wraparound style support.

Injuries

Skiing knee injuries are usually acute, due to a sudden force when falling. This type of injury may be a cartilage or ligament tear, or even a fracture. Most knee supports and braces with metal parts are suitable for these kinds of injuries as they are designed to reduce twisting and sideways movements at the knee joint which tends to aggravate this kind of injury. Hinged knee braces are used most frequently by skiers as they give the most support. Stabilised ones can also be used for minor knee injuries.

Other existing knee injuries which may not be due to skiing include patellofemoral pain (also known as anterior knee pain or patella mal-tracking) and Osteoarthritis. These kinds of knee problems may not be severe enough to stop you skiing, but you may feel that some more support would be helpful. In this case, a neoprene support (for heat retention) with a patella buttress is recommended to control patella movement. 

Support Level

Generally, knee supports come in three levels of support. They are sometimes called simple, stabilised and hinged, or labelled 1, 2 and 3 in this order.

Simple knee supports are those which are comprosed of neoprene or elasticated material only, with no additional metal parts or straps. Simple supports provide low-level support, heat retention and compression. Generally these aren't used that much in skiing as most skiers with knee injuries want more support than they can offer.

Stabilised knee supports offer more support than a simple one as they tend to have metal stays or springs embedded into the material on each side of the knee. These stays are flexible enough to allow you to bend the knee as usual, but give some resistance again twisting and lateral movements. Stabilised knee supports will also provide the same warmth and compression of a simple support.

Hinged knee supports are the most supportive type, often referred to as knee braces. They have a solid metal hinge on each side of the knee joint which allows knee flexion and extension but resists all other movements. HInged supports are used commonly by skiers and those whose knee(s) feels unstable at times, as though it may give way beneath them.

Material

Knee supports tend to be made of either neoprene (a synthetic form of rubber) or an elasticated poly/cotton mix. Both have pro's and con's.

Neoprene is great for heat retention and compression. Heat retention is particularly important for skiers! It is also a very strong, thick material which is longlasting. It can be handwashed in warm-water.

Elasticated supports still offer compression, although are not as good at heat retention as neoprene ones. The plus side of elasticated supports is that they are thinner and tend to be more breathable. Again they can be handwashed. Some may even be machine washable.

Wraparound Supports

The majority of knee supports available are pull-on style supports which are pulled up the leg, over the foot and onto the knee. However, there are a few models available which actually wrap around the knee joint and fasten with velcro. For skiers, these can be beneficial as they allow you to adjust, apply and remove the support during your skiing time, without having to take your ski boots off! The other bonus of a wrap-around support is that the sizing is less strict. They either come 'one size fits all' or in two or three wide size bands which means that measuring your knee accurately is less of an issue and those with larger thigh and calf areas can wrap them to fit.

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