Should I Wear a Knee Brace After ACL Surgery?

After anterior cruciate ligament or ACL surgery, your reconstructed ligament will take some time to heal. During this healing process some doctors may encourage the use of a knee brace to help protect and support the knee. Recently, however, the use of knee braces following ACL surgery have come under increased scrutiny with their effectiveness questioned. So, the question remains – should you brace or not brace following your ACL surgery? To tackle this question, let’s look at what a knee brace does, and the pros and cons associated with your recovery.

What Does a Knee Brace Do? 

Following your ACL surgery, your grafted ligament is at risk of rupture. This means that if significant force is placed on your knee during the healing process, the graft may not be able to endure the pressure. It is because of this that the use of a knee brace is often recommended.

Wearing a knee brace after ACL surgery helps to limit the amount of movement of the knee joint, which is thought to decrease force through the grafted ligament. This, in turn, reduces the risk of rupture or damage to the ligament. However, various studies that compared patients who used a knee brace following ACL surgery and those who did not, found little evidence to suggest that a knee brace was essential in recovery or injury prevention.

Furthermore, the studies found that there was no difference in ligament integrity between those who did use a brace and those that did not. It was also noted that patients who did not use a knee brace reported less pain during their return to sports or work activities.

The Pros and Cons of Wearing a Knee Brace 

While the evidence suggests that the use of a knee brace after ACL surgery may have little to no impact on your recovery, it could offer you some sense of comfort. Many patients choose to wear a knee brace when returning to sports or physical activity as a means of support when a low amount of force is applied to the joint. In addition to this, the knee brace may also:

  • Protect you if you slip or fall
  • Allow your knee to rest in a good position
  • Maintain the extension of the leg

But the problem with knee braces is that they often give a false sense of security. While they may support your knee, particularly as you get back into physical activity, they don’t protect you from a force that is high enough to disrupt the reconstructed ligament. Wearing a knee brace may also:

  • Make you more prone to slip or fall
  • Limit your ability to regain normal movement of the knee joint
  • Be uncomfortable

To Brace or Not to Brace? 

Essentially the decision comes down to you and your surgeon. Would you feel more comfortable in a brace? Will it help you gain the confidence to get back into the sports and activities you love? If the answers is yes, than wearing a knee brace might be just what you need after your ACL surgery. But remember to talk with your doctor. Every person is different, and every surgery has the potential to present different outcomes, so the best thing to do is to be prepared. Arm yourself with information about what a knee brace could do for you. And if you do choose to wear a knee brace, be sure that it is one prescribed by your doctor and is adjusted to fit you correctly.

ACL injury CTA

If you are about to have ACL surgery, our Complete Guide to ACL Injuries will help you navigate all the supports (knee braces or otherwise) associated with the injury, the surgery and your recovery. Download your free guide today.

29 Jan 2020

Published by Stuart MacKenzie

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