At the age of eleven I broke my knee. This would be a rather devastating event for any active kid, but seemed especially so to me because I enjoyed long-distance running, soccer, riding horseback, and many other activities that are generally made much easier by the use of both knees. What’s worse, due to the circumstances surrounding the injury I tried to hide it and not let anyone know…I can hear you saying “yeah right” over there, but considering I already had a reputation in the household for dramatics and the fact that I didn’t have to walk much inside the house where everyone else was (and thanks to my home schooled upbringing) I succeeded in hiding it for just over a week.
When I finally got in to the doctor he had the grim news that I had indeed broken my knee in a couple of places and shouldn’t be even attempting to walk on it for quite some time…
…that time passed, I followed the good doctor’s instructions to the letter and got back on my feet. Enough time passed that he pronounced me healthy enough to resume my athletic activities, which I did. That lasted for less than a month.
One day as I jogged along the track I’d worn around the family acreage I found myself suddenly blinded by a searing pain. When I regained a semblance of composure I looked down at my pained leg where it lay fully extended in the dirt…with the kneecap prominent well to the left of where it should have been. Another doctor’s visit and an investigation conducted via MRI revealed that when I had first injured my knee a muscle the helps keep the kneecap in place had gotten either cut or torn. The treatment? Physical therapy and bracing the knee so it wouldn’t slide off again and cause even more damage.
For everyday use I had a soft neoprene knee brace with a cut-out for the kneecap that pretty much just served to keep everything in place, but as I healed I once again felt the hankering for my running and sports. The doctor pronounced me fit enough to carefully ease back into lighter sports activity. However, I would need something a little more supportive than a simple neoprene brace, so he suggested a hinged knee brace.
We found the Bike Max Lite hinged knee brace at a local sports store for around $50. This brace allowed for fairly free movement in soccer (I played defense at the time thanks to my injury, so I stayed in a relatively small area of the field) while restricting my range enough to prevent any further damage to the knee. However, I did find it to be a little too restrictive for all-out running and it tended to rub at the skin and pinch a little at the back of the knee. After failing to find anything that worked well enough for running I finally just gave it up entirely except for what was required for soccer and school.
This brace is constructed of heavy-duty neoprene with wide velcro straps above and below the knee. A stiff piece on either side of the brace helps keep the knee within a limited range. The brace breathes as well as just about anything neoprene I suppose, there’s a cloth-like layer over the outside and inside surfaces that helps absorb sweat and keep it off the skin, though after high levels of activity (such as a soccer game) there’s still going to be a bit of excess moisture.
Other than the pinching during running this brace fits me very comfortably and comes down to just above my shin guard so it doesn’t interfere with that. I wore the brace for some bike riding and it worked well, though my experience in that is limited since I opted to ride my horse much more often than the bike and wore my lighter brace for horseback riding.
That all happened in 1997 and 1998, I continued to wear the lighter brace constantly until the early part of 2000 but continued to wear the hinged brace for higher levels of activity until 2002. During that time I used the brace in soccer twice a week, swing dancing once a week, long-distance walks four times a week with occasional very long-distance hikes, running short distances four times a week from 1999-2002 for P.E. in school as well as various other P.E. activities, and skiing twice a month throughout the winter months in each of those years. Even now I still use the brace for periods of intense activity (the muscle never healed properly, the all-knowing doctor realized too late that surgery was probably our only option), but now with a two-year-old son I don’t get out to play as much as I used to. With all this use, though, the brace has held up admirably and the only sign of wear is a little creasing on the back of the knee and the top of the “hinge” piece on the inside of the leg is worn, but other than that it looks great and still works like new, not bad for $50.