Mueller braces and supports used for prophylactic purposes are designed to prevent knee injuries when someone is physically active. If an injury does occur, the equipment will reduce the severity. These products are different from support devices used to rehabilitate the knee after an injury or surgery. Another type is the functional brace, which provides more stability to the joint.
A fourth type is specifically designed for individuals with knee arthritis. Essentially, this brace offloads pressure from the knee to the thigh so that there is significantly less stress on the joint and the person doesn't suffer from discomfort.
How Prophylactic Knee Braces Began
The concept of using a prophylactic brace to prevent or minimize knee injury began in the 1970s when practitioners at a New York City hospital designed one for pro football star Joe Namath. Much of the research on effectiveness of wearing braces for preventive use has focused on football, including at the college and high school levels. Sports medicine practitioners would like to see more comprehensive research, including on specific designs of braces and the ability to prevent specific injuries across various kinds of athletic activity.
Important Considerations About Interchanging Devices
Wearing a rehabilitative, functional or offloading brace or sleeve may not have preventive effects against acute injuries. Customers are advised against interchanging the different types. For instance, borrowing a rehabilitative sleeve from a friend to wear to prevent injury while playing racquetball is not a sensible idea. In addition, wearing a device designed to prevent injury while playing racquetball should not be considered effective when playing basketball or soccer.
Mueller braces and supports for preventive use are generally intended for knees that have not recently experienced an acute injury, although the knee may have a certain level of arthritis. These devices are also not intended to provide stability to an unstable knee. They hold the joint in proper position to prevent injuries like ligament tears, cartilage damage, dislocation and muscle sprains.
Working With an Orthopedic Doctor
Working with an orthopedic doctor to choose the right brace from a supplier such as Mueller Sports Medicine is important. This doctor wants not only to know the type of athletic activity the patient will be doing, but specifics like player position in a sport. A different device might be recommended for a person who regularly mountain bikes on rough terrain than someone who races competitively and bikes for many miles on pavement.