Knee Braces. After Injury, Are They Essential to Getting Back Your Form?
Getting fit for the Northern Hemisphere ski season? If you’re a serious snow sports enthusiast, then the answer must be yes. But spare a thought for what it would be like if you had to get ski fit after a serious injury last season? I for one, have had to do this, after a tough few months of rehab from a pretty big knee injury and two knee surgeries. So, getting back to ski fitness is not just a good thing to do, for me, it’s been essential to ensuring an injury-free future.
And one thing an injury, and the best ski season the Canadians had seen in a while will do, is inspire you to get back on the planks as soon as possible. I did get asked more than once, would that be the end of skiing for me, to which I replied ‘Do I look like my legs don’t work?’ Of course not. My body type and gender makes me a shoe-in for such knee injuries, I have been told, now that I have lived through 2 knee reconstructions- one on each knee. However, with strong rehab you can go back to skiing as you’ve always done, and I am living proof of that. Serious rehab is what I did- physio, cycling, heavy weights, and yoga (optional but good for overall strength and well being).
But what about the new ligament graft? Is it strong enough? My surgeon (same as Chemmy Alcotts when she broke her leg, email me if you need a good knee doctor), asked me to use a brace the first month as I build my ‘ski fitness’ up from actually doing the turns. At first, I wasn’t a believer, but then I was recommended a Donjoy brace and so I looked into it. My main concern was whether my knee would get ‘used’ to the brace, and therefore be lost, or worse, suffer injury, if I stop using it. I didn’t want to have a knee brace dependency long term. But, however, I also want to ski great turns this season with the confidence that I am not in any real danger of re-rupturing my knee again.
So, I met with Ben from Donjoy who fit me with my ligament-protecting FULL FORCE knee brace in no time. Knee braces have advanced since I last needed one over 10 years ago. It was a lot lighter than I remember, and seemed more ‘bracing’ both with the side pressure points, and the intricate number of Velcro straps which need to be closed in a specific order to ensure the best protection.
The label tells me that it’s ‘the strongest prefabricated solution to protect athletes who dare to challenge their own boundaries’. Well, that’s me of course! And when I asked Ben how it does it, he told me it’s especially designed with 4 points of leverage to reduce the ligament strain by 50% , it dampens the knee extension without impeding performance.
So, I thought I’d give it a shot. I dashed out to Zermatt for a weekend in late November. Expecting to be just skiing on the glacier, it turned out that Cervinia (Italian part of Zermatt ski area) was the only resort with snow, so we skied the entire resort. I strapped it on, got my ski pants over the top no problem, and got to give it a red hot go as they say.
So far, so good. On my first run, understandably, I was tentative. However as time went on, and I reveled in being back in the mountains (where I belong), I began relaxing, a little, and testing myself skiing more. I tried to make sure I was still relying on my muscles during the turns, but there definitely was a feeling of ‘stability’ in the knee, without feeling oppressive.
I’ll keep using the brace and keep you posted on performance that I note this winter. But if you’ve suffered knee injury or you feel prone, then, really it makes sense to use one.Here is the link for the brace I have.