Snowboarding is a popular recreational activity and Olympic sport that involves descending snow-covered surfaces while standing (straight or bent) on a snowboard that touches a rider's feet. Knee injuries are common in the sport prompting the need for knee brace for snowboarding as a preventative or rehabilitative measure.
Common Knee InjuriesSnowboarding is regarded as a bad sport for the knees. Some of the most common knee injuries affect different parts of the knees and other components that form the knee joint i.e., ligaments, cartilage, tendons, and bones. The most common knee injuries for snowboarders include;
I. ACL InjuriesSnowboarding can cause the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) to tear. The ACL is part of the knee ligaments joining the thighbone to the shinbone. It is prone to tearing when snowboarders land while their knees are bent or land while the knees are overextended. ACL injuries are common in other sports like soccer and basketball, that require abrupt changes in direction.
II. Knee Bursitis
This is another knee injury common among snowboarders. Knee Bursitis is characterized by inflammation of the bursa (small fluid-filled sac) that cushions the knee joint and aids smooth ligament and tendon movement.
III. Knee FractureThe patella (kneecap) can fracture if you fall on your knees while snowboarding. Excreting a lot of force when landing can also cause a fracture on the patella, among other bones.
IV. Patellar TendinitisSnowboarding can also cause inflammation and irritation on one or multiple tendons that attach bones to muscles surrounding the knees. Patellar Tendinitis is common among seasoned snowboarders who repeatedly stress and overuse their knee tendons.
V. Torn MeniscusThe knee has a cartilage (meniscus) that absorbs shock generated by the thigh bone and shin bone. Snowboarding can forcefully rotate or twist the knee, causing this injury.
Benefits of Knee BraceFor snowboarders, a knee brace for snowboarding will offer three main benefits that can be summarized below;
I. Preventative BenefitsSince snowboarding is bound to exert a lot of pressure on the knees, a slip-on knee brace can be used to prevent injuries by ensuring the knee doesn't overextend or compress surrounding tissue. A knee brace will stop the knee from forcibly twisting or bending sharply, which is a leading cause of ligament injuries.
II. Rehabilitative BenefitsAssuming you already have a knee injury, a knee brace will still be beneficial for rehabilitative benefits. A knee brace encourages healing by reducing pressure/force on the knee after injury or post-surgery/treatment. The knee usually takes longer to heal. A knee brace will offer much-needed support, control knee joint movement, and prevent further damage by reducing pressure/force on the knee after injury.
III. Weight Benefits
Snowboarders and other active persons can get a sprain, twist, or other serious knee injuries. Knee braces unload stress on the knee joint and surrounding areas reducing the odds of getting injuries. They also make knee injuries bearable. The weight relieving benefits offer better mobility and allow knee injuries to heal.
Choosing the Best Knee Brace for SnowboardingThere are three main considerations to make when selecting knee braces, namely;
1. Type of Knee Brace
There are different types of knee braces largely differentiable by the level of mobility and support they offer. The knee brace you choose should match your situation or injury.
Knee stabilizers offer more knee support than compression sleeves. As the name suggests, they are designed to offer added stability. However, they are bulkier.
Hinged knee braces offer unmatched physical support to the sides of your knees. They are meant to position the knee properly. They are designed with padding and adjustability, making them perfect for preventing and treating ACL injuries, patella instability, ligament strains and meniscus injuries.
Full-frame knee braces are given to persons recovering from serious snowboarding injuries. They could also be prescribed after major knee surgery to offer superior support against impact. Full-frame knee braces have large metal frames that support the leg from the upper thigh to the mid-shin area.
2. Stability & ProtectionThe knee brace you choose should match the stability and protection you want. Knee stabilizers are ideal for basic stability and protection during snowboarding which involves the knees. However, you may need sturdier knee braces, such as hinged knee braces, to protect yourself from impact or protect the knee after an injury.
3. Sizing & Comfort
The type of brace is as important as the size. While knee braces should be firm, they shouldn't be too tight. Otherwise, you risk cutting off circulation. The knee brace you choose should offer a secure fitting. Most importantly, you should follow the manufacturer's sizing guidelines before buying. The knee brace also needs to be comfortable over long durations (hours). It helps to test the knee brace out first before snowboarding.
Other Ways to Avoid Injuries
Compression sleeves: You can avoid knee injuries when snowboarding by putting on compression sleeves instead of knee stabilizers, hinged braces or full-frame knee braces. Compression sleeves put mild pressure on the knee. They may not offer unmatched support. However, they are capable of preventing excessive knee movements that increase injury risks.
They can also stimulate blood flow, making them capable of assisting with minor knee pain or aches. Compression sleeves are also lightweight and hardly noticeable under clothing, meaning you will avoid injuries without compromising on aesthetics or comfort.
Neoprene sleeves, Kinesio taping, and compression stockings are other alternatives to knee braces. They work mostly for individuals who find knee braces to be uncomfortable, cumbersome, ineffective, and costly. There's research suggesting that these alternatives offer some form of stability and relieve pain linked to many knee problems. Compression stockings, Kinesio taping, and neoprene sleeves have been part of postoperative knee treatment.
However, it's advisable to seek professional help if you aren't sure which knee brace for snowboarding to wear or when you have severe knee issues from snowboarding. Knee braces worn for preventative reasons don't need to be prescribed. However, those used for rehabilitative reasons are best prescribed by healthcare experts.