In particular, lower leg injuries have always been a problem for skiers. In the early days before the development of the now-common sophisticated release bindings, the twisting forces which happened during falls meant that breaking either the tibia or fibia (or both) was a common occurrence. The technological advances in respect of the aforesaid bindings has meant that although fractures of these bones are less common, the knee still remains largely unprotected and so the force from such “twisting” is now transmitted to the knee joint. Recent statistics now indicate that around 30-40% of skiing injuries happen to the knee and its associated surrounding structures.
Wearing a knee brace for skiing can help to prevent injuries but for most skiers, their first experience with a knee brace is following an injury, in the hope that they will be able to carry on with the sport and both minimise the chances of further damage and provide support to the weakened area.
There are many different makes and models available and to a novice, choosing an appropriate support can seem like a daunting task.
The material used in most braces is neoprene. This is a synthetic rubber which is stretchy and supportive and mold to the shape of the knee joint. It can also help to retain heat and is durable.
There are three different levels of protection-Low, Medium and High.
Low protection knee braces are those which are made from simple stretchy neoprene or elastic type material with no rigid structure. They offer little resistance to the twisting and turning manoeuvres and support is minimal. They are generally not considered to be very suitable for skiing, but some skiers do wear them as a preventative measure.
Medium protection knee braces for skiing usually have either springs or metal or plastic stays fixed into the material down both sides of the joint. These help to prevent the sideways and twisting movements. The construction is usually lightweight and there is sometimes some padded protection (buttress) for the kneecap. They are suitable for skiers with sprains of the ligaments and patellofemoral pain.
Knee braces for skiing with high protection are hinged. They provide comprehensive protection against twisting and lateral movement of the knee whilst still allowing a good range of movement, allowing skiers to carry out the sport with minimal disruption. It is usually recommended that you use a hinged brace when you have a ACL, PCL or other ruptures of the ligaments of the knee and injuries of the meniscus.