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If you have followed BYU football the past few years you have probably noticed that many of the players wear expensive, custom-made prophylactic knee braces. This kind of exposure to knee braces has been the catalyst for the rise in sales of many less expensive, off-the-shelf lateral knee braces. Most of them have a rigid metal hinge enclosed in a neoprene or canvas sleeve.

Unfortunately, there has been no long term studies showing that these braces are effective. The athlete's reasons for wearing these braces have been antidotal and based on personal testimonials. Several major clinical trials have been underway for the past few years investigating the effectiveness of lateral knee braces, and the results routinely suggest that the braces probably do not prevent injury.In fact the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons Sports Medicine Committee have released a statement warning football coaches, team physicians, physical therapists and athletic trainers that lateral knee bracing devices may not prevent or reduce the number of knee injuries sustained by football players.

Some studies go even further and state the use of lateral knee braces may even predispose the athlete to injury. Here are five potential ways these braces could increase your risk of having a knee injury.

-Lateral knee braces may protect the outer ligaments and stretch or "pre-load" the knee's inner ligaments, which makes them susceptible to injury.

-The center axis of the knee changes as it bends but the knee brace maintains the same center axis with it's movement. This re-directs the stress on the knee and predisposes the ligaments to injury.

-Brace slippage is common and also creates unnatural forces on the knee.

-The brace usually bends to the point of joint contact which creates a three point bending system (much like breaking a stick over your knee).

-Wearing the prophylactic knee brace inhibits muscular and

functional performance.

The national debate of using prophylactic knee braces has been heated for the past few years and still continues. Bill Bean, head athletic trainer at the University of Utah admits the jury is still out regarding the effectiveness of these braces. Therefore, he dispenses braces only at the request of the individual athlete.

If you decide to use a prophylactic knee brace make sure that it does not interfere with normal knee function, and will adapt to your particular shape and size of knee.