SHOULD YOU WEAR MOTOCROSS KNEE BRACES?
Let's face it, we picked one of the most interesting, thrilling and dangerous sports in the world.
Depending on whether you're a weekend warrior or a pro - as an mx rider you could be found racing at your local club mx on the weekend, hitting a ramp on a 70 foot jump or doing some enduro hill climbs (and more). Either way, there is a good chance you will have some close calls and sometimes if you're unlucky enough you will even have a spill.
Unfortunately crashes come with injuries. Sometimes you might walk away from a crash and be totally fine (besides a few scratches and maybe a bruised ego). Other times it can go really wrong, and that ain't pretty. Without going into detail of the various injuries you can cop in this sport, one of the worst that can keep you off the bike and maybe work (depending on what you do for a job) are knee injuries, especially knee ligament damage.
Knee injuries can range from Ligament (ACL, MCL, PCL and LCL), to meniscal, cartilage, and bone trauma (Bruising or fracture). All of these injuries can be a huge setback to your riding among other things in life.
So firstly, let's deep dive into how the knee functions and common injuries that can happen.
What is the Knee?
The knee is the joint that connects the bones of the upper and lower leg. It is needed for pretty much any form of movement – such as running, cycling or swimming. The knee is the body’s largest joint, and it has a fairly complex structure. This structure makes it possible for us to bend and straighten our knees, and to turn them slightly inward or outward. The knee joint is made up of a number of bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons and ligaments.
What are knee ligaments?
There are 4 major ligaments in the knee. Ligaments are elastic bands of tissue that connect bones to each other and provide stability & strength to the joint. The four main ligaments in the knee connect the femur (thighbone) to the tibia (shin bone), and include the following.
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). The ligament, located in the center of the knee, that controls rotation and forward movement of the tibia (shin bone).
- Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). The ligament, located in the back of the knee, that controls backward movement of the tibia (shin bone).
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL). The ligament that gives stability to the inner knee.
- Lateral collateral ligament (LCL). The ligament that gives stability to the outer knee.
Knee Ligament Injuries
One of the most common ligaments to be injured is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). ACL injuries usually occur during a sudden twisting motion (when the feet stay planted one way, but the knees turn the other way). Another common ligament that can be injured is the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). The PCL injury usually occurs with a sudden and direct impact such as a car/bike accident, football tackle etc.
Depending on the severity of your injury, treatment may include rest and rehabilitation exercises to help you regain strength and stability, or surgery to replace the torn ligament followed by rehabilitation.
For example an ACL reconstruction paired with months of physiotherapy and rehabilitation can usually restore stability and function to your knee. Recovery generally takes about nine months to sometimes 12 months, so that would mean no riding until you are 100% perfect. There are also the added costs of surgery with a specialist, MRI’s and other required scans, the costs of physio and rehab services and any loss of income if you are not able to work.
It can start getting expensive….I know this from personal experience.
Now we’ve covered injuries that can happen to our knees in this sport, let's seehow knee braces work and if they are worth the investment...
How Do Knee Braces Work
Knee braces are designed to support your legs, while also reducing the chance of hyperextension and hyperflexion in your knees. Most braces use a hinge system that mirrors the ligaments in the knee and when the braces are put under pressure, the brace will absorb and disperse the energy, not your knee. By wearing a brace it will also minimise and prevent dangerous ranges of motion in the knees that could cause ligament stretches, tears etc.
Knee braces not only provide range of motion protection for your knee, but due to their general design features of large exoskeletal type framing they provide a greater surface area coverage of not only your knee, but your upper shin and lower femur areas. Something a knee pad does not do.
We will point out more of the differences from knee brace to knee pad use in a later blog post.
Is it worth the cost to buy some knee braces?
Most moto knee braces are expensive, but not as expensive as all the costs involved with a ACL reconstruction (surgery, specialist, rehab, radiology and loss of income)
Knees Braces are more than just protective gear they can be classed as medical devices. Knee braces go through rigorous and expensive testing, also the production costs to make a good pair of braces is not cheap. They really are a cheap investment compared to the alternative of a knee reconstruction surgery which will cost you thousands of dollars and time of the bike.
Don't forget if you get knee braces you should wear mx socks underneath for a comfortable fit, click here and we can help you with that
Tune into our next article on what to look for in a motocross knee brace.