How Do I Choose the Best ACL Knee Brace?

A diagram of the knee, showing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
A person wearing a knee brace.
Knee injuries are common in sports.
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  • Written By: Dave Slovak
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 14 August 2014
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An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) knee brace is commonly used to support a previously-injured or otherwise weak knee. Tearing an ACL is the one the most common sports injuries, so there is a high demand for knee orthotics. Several companies specialize in the manufacture of high-quality orthopedic equipment. When searching for the best ACL knee brace, you should consider the brace's effectiveness, comfort, quality and, of course, price. Trying a brace on prior to purchase can help you determine the level of comfort and decide whether it is the best one for you.

Choosing an effective ACL knee brace is a top priority because the main goal is to prevent injury. Although there is no scientific evidence to suggest that one brand of ACL knee brace is superior to another, there are some important features to look for in a high-quality brace. The first thing to note is that there is a difference between a wrap and a brace. A wrap is simply a protective sleeve that is often a one-size-fits-all neoprene support. Although wraps are lightweight and flexible, they are fairly ineffective in preventing serious injury such as an ACL tear.


The most effective type of ACL knee brace is called a hinged brace, named such because the brace pivots at the knee. This type of brace is particularly effective because it leverages a larger surface area of the leg, extending above the knee to the thigh and below the knee to the middle of the calf. The hinged brace design specifically targets the ligaments and prevents strain on those parts of the knee.

Although hinged braces are effective, they tend to sacrifice comfort for effective support. On a positive note, several companies manufacture custom-fit braces, which can provide more comfort — and typically more support — than a stock brace. People have differently shaped knees and surrounding muscles, so it can be challenging to find a brace that fits properly, and ordering a custom brace can alleviate the issue. A stock brace is also more likely to slip and need frequent readjusting if your leg does not match well with the design of the brace. One last thing to consider about comfort is that hinged braces are rather bulky, which might be a problem or feel uncomfortable.

A hinged brace is often made of better materials than other support devices. High-end braces use titanium or even airplane aluminum for the skeleton, making them very strong and durable. Even the type of plastic and straps used to tighten the brace are important features to consider, and top-of-the-line braces use excellent parts. You can research and review what others have said about particular brands of ACL knee braces, which can help you judge their quality.

Along with the likelihood that a hinged brace will be effective and durable is the likelihood that it will cost significantly more than the alternatives. Hinged braces can cost 10 to 100 times more than a one-size-fits-all brace or wrap, with a custom brace costing the most. Some health insurance companies will defray the cost of a brace that has been prescribed by a doctor.


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