Basketball players may require a knee brace due to one of several injuries. The ideal brace serves its function with the least restriction on player movement. What works for one player may not work for another. Guards require more mobility than centers. Some players find that they are not able to return to basketball even with bracing while others are able to discontinue bracing after a short period.
Braces used in basketball fall into two categories: stability braces and patella braces. Any brace that is worn in competition or school practice must meet certain restrictions.
One type of stability, MCL, brace provides medial and lateral support. The larger stability braces are designed to limit several types of motion: medial-lateral, anterior-posterior, and rotational.
When the knee is forced into a knock-knee, valgus, position, the medial collateral ligament on the inside of the knee stretches and tears. A medial-lateral brace decreases the knee's ability to go into a valgus position and improves proprioception. These braces have thigh and calf sleeves with either one or two supporting sidebars. They are not recommended as prophylatcic braces in basketball. They may be used after an injury, according to "American Family Physician."
The multidirectional stability braces have straps on the thigh and calf. There is a hard support over the thigh and a tibia support. There are bilateral sidebars. Stock versions are fit by a few leg measurements while custom braces are based on a mold or multiple measurements of the athlete's leg. Studies have not shown that custom fit braces improve performance, but some athletes find them more comfortable. At one time, multidirectional stability knee braces were worn after ACL surgery, however it has been found that there was no difference in outcomes between bracing and not bracing the knee for one year after ACL surgery, says the American Acadey of Orthopaedic Surgeons, AAOS. The multidirectional stability knee brace is used to decrease abnormal motion and allow an injured player to continue playing basketball.
Basketball players are prone to several overuse injuries around the knee. These are treated with sleeve braces. "Jumper's knee" is another term for patella tendonitis. The pain occurs in the tendon between the kneecap and tibia. A sleeve brace with a pad over this area may be useful. Abnormal tracking of the patella or patella femoral pain responds to a brace that applies a medial force at the kneecap. There may be a cut-out area over the patella. Players who land on their knees frequently may wear knee pads to prevent bursitis, according to the AAOS.
NCAA, National Federation of State High School Associations, State High School Associations, and Amateur Athletic Union have rules covering player uniforms and equipment. The rules are written to protect the player, other players, and not give any player an unfair advantage. Any brace worn in competition or in some organizations, practice, must conform to these rules.
Schools require athletes to have a physician's statement that they are able to participate in the sport. After a knee injury, schools may require a player to obtain a note from a physician stating that they may return to practice and competition. Some will require that the physician state if a brace is necessary.
Each state federation can add additional rules to the rules of the NFSH. The NCAA states the referee shall not permit any player to wear equipment that in his or her judgment is dangerous to other players. Basketball knee braces may be worn but hard sections need to be properly covered. The use of an arm sleeve, knee sleeve and lower leg sleeve is permissible for medical reasons but its utilization shall be verified by either the individual's coach or team's medical personnel. Another NCAA rules is "Any equipment that is unnatural and designed to increase a player's height or reach, or to gain an unfair advantage, shall be prohibited.
- "American Family Physician"; Knee Braces: Current Evidence and Clinical Recommendations for their Use; Scott Paluska, MD and Douglas McKeag, MD; 2000
- NCAA Basketball; 2010 and 2011 Men's and Women's Rules; Ed Bilik, ed,; 2009
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Orthopaedic Knowledge Update 9; Fischgrund, J, ed; 2009