The MXstore Knee Brace Buying Guide
Unfortunately injuries are an inevitable part of dirt bike riding. Whether you are a weekend warrior, a seasoned pro or any level in between, chances are that you are eventually going to hit the deck. When that time comes you will be thankful you invested in the safety gear you're wearing. With knee braces on the higher end of the price scale and a knee ligament injury less common than a graze, knee braces are usually overlooked as part of your safety gear essentials and knee guards are purchased instead. So why would anybody fork out for knee braces when knee guards start around $30 and a set of braces can be up over the $1000? Read on to find out why the investment is worth it.
Knee Guards vs Knee Braces - The Difference?
Scarily enough there are a vast amount of riders out there who don’t know the difference between a guard and a brace, or they think a brace is just for people who have already had a knee injury. Sadly most people only end up with a set of braces after they have had a knee reconstruction, having realised the pain and down time involved with a serious knee injury. We've delved into what makes the brace a much more serious piece of protective equipment than a simple guard.
The main purpose of a knee guard is to reduce the severity of impact and abrasion injury to a riders’ knee and shin areas during a crash. They're often made up of foam padding with hard plastic, hardened foam or gel as a barrier between the rider and the ground and start at around $30 for a cheap set.
Braces also have the basic knee padding and protection, but their primary objective is to protect the riders’ knee joint from rapid sideways or lateral movement, which can cause serious injury to the ligaments as well as meniscus or cartilage tears. They are made from a range of materials depending on the brand but commonly have a solid external frame with a hinge at your knee joint level. Most of your premium knee braces will work to mimic the movements of the human knee joint, meaning when you do have an impact, the brace will work to absorb the forces of the impact and reduce the strain placed on the knee joint itself.
Technology-wise, the knee brace is one of the most advanced pieces of protective equipment you can get. The leading brands, such as POD Active, Mobius Braces and Asterisk, have put decades of research and development into the human body, learning how to minimise the damage it can sustain in sporting accidents. As the knee is easily one of the most complex joints in the body, we seriously cannot understate just how important it is to give yourself the best protection possible, no matter what level of the sport you are participating in. Do not take a chance with your knees; you only get two. Grab yourself some knee braces and ride in comfort, knowing you're as protected as you can possibly be.
As I sit here writing this, I think of the serious knee injuries I've sustained in the past, and how a top end knee brace may have reduced the number of months I was stuck on the couch with my knee in a brace, unable to walk, let alone ride. The thing with knee injuries, they can happen so easily. You don't even need to be riding fast or doing anything crazy. If your leg simply catches the ground at the wrong angle, it doesn't take much for your knee to give way and let me tell you, it's not a pleasant feeling. I will never throw my leg over another dirt bike without a set of knee braces on, and I'd encourage every rider out there to do the same.
Anatomy Lesson - The Knee Joint
The knee is made up of four bones being held together by four main ligaments, which are separated by cartilage which acts as cushioning between the bones. A knee ligament injury can either be minor by being stretched (sprained) or torn (ruptured).
A ligament rupture can be partial with only some of the ligament fibres being torn or complete where the ligament has torn all the way through resulting in pain, swelling, bruising and tenderness causing reduced movement of the knee joint. A knee can become unstable after a ligament injury and in severe cases, a knee reconstruction is needed to graft and reattach a new ligament to stabilize the joint and prevent further dislocation.
Depending on the severity of the injury, a rider can expect to face 3-6 months off the bike after undergoing surgery with the worst case we have heard of being 11 months off the bike. Months of physiotherapy and rehabilitation are needed before the joint is back to somewhat 100% and the graft has become truly strong. Eager riders may rush to get back on the bike as their knee feels fine and they want to ride, but within the first 6 months the graft is still weak and the chances of injuring the joint again are quite high.
Prevention is Better than a Cure
Even the most expensive knee brace on the market is cheaper than the MRI you will need if you damage your knee ligaments. Luckily we Aussies have a decent health system, but the idea of 6 months off the bike (among other setbacks like not being able to work or hit the dance floor) should be enough to make anyone want to invest in a decent set of knee braces. There are some knee guards and knee pads out there which claim to be braces, so be sure to do your research before you buy. These are basically just beefed-up knee pads with hinges on them - here are a few things to look out for when shopping for a set of proper knee braces:
- Poly-axial hinges: The hinge should have 2 pivot points for each side of the brace, if the brace has a single hinge point it will not pivot in the natural motion of your knee.
- The hinge point: Set just behind the middle of the knee joint will provide the best protection.
- Protection for the front of your knee: A solid patella cap to protect against impact trauma, particularly above the knee.
- Long bars or arms of the brace: The longer the better really as this is what is anchored to your skeleton which gives your joint support.
- Good strapping: Dual strapping is best, two straps above and two below keep the brace fixed to your leg and prevents it from sliding up and down your leg.
- An adjustable extension locking point: The better braces will allow you to adjust how straight your leg can go before the brace reaches its lock out which prevents hyperextension.
- Anchor for the bottom of the brace to the boot: Twisting the lower part of your leg can happen without even falling off the bike so this is a great preventative measure against it!
How Should a Knee Brace Fit?
The common rule for most pieces of safety gear is to aim for a comfortable snug fit, which also applies for the fitment of knee braces. The padding for the hinge point which sits either side of the rider's knee joint should be fairly snug against the knee. Too tight and the rider will experience pain when riding, and too loose the brace may slip down the leg and not sit in the correct place on the knee.
Most braces on the market come with adjustment options so replacing the padding can help you find the exact fit for you. To check the knee brace is not too loose put a set of braces on and walk around without any boots on, if they are loose they will slip down your legs easily. Also make sure you try both left and right sides on as some knees are different sizes left and right.
Putting a set of knee braces on for the first time can be a little tricky as there are extra straps than a set of pads and the brace needs to sit in the right spot on your leg to work effectively. The first thing you should do is put on a set of knee brace socks which come up to your upper thigh and are a little thinner than regular socks. The extra length of the sock will reduce any rubbing and irritation to the skin from the straps of the knee brace and as they are thin they won’t be as hot to wear.
Once you have your knee brace socks on it’s time to put the braces on. The easiest way is to sit down with a slightly bent knee. The next step is to undo all of the straps and push the brace onto your knee. Secure the straps in the following sequence. Secure the strap directly below your knee first, then the strap directly above second, followed by the top strap and then lastly the bottom strap. Ensure the straps secure the knee brace firmly to your leg and once all of the straps are tightened bent your knee a few times to check the brace is sitting in the correct position.
Following this sequence when tightening the straps will help keep the brace in the correct position on your knee, and ensure the knee brace can work effectively to keep your knee joints safe!
Check out retired multi-time Supercross and Motocross World Champion Ryan Villopoto discussing the importance of a knee brace in the video below.
Popular MX knee braces for sale:
- Asterisk knee braces,
- POD knee braces,
- EVS knee braces,
- Leatt knee braces
- Troy Lee Designs knee braces
If you have any further questions regarding knee braces or safety gear, please don’t hesitate to contact the friendly team at MXstore
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