Best ACL Knee Brace
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the most well-known ligaments in the body, but not for a great reason. The ACL is frequently injured in sports, arguably the most common knee injury, to the point where many athletes are assumed to have at one point torn their ACL. The main reason for this lies in the anatomy of the knee, which of course is combined with certain movements that place excessive stress on the ACL.
There is some good news, though. Given that ACL injuries are so common, they are heavily studied in the scientific and sports medicine fields, and there have been major advancements in our knowledge of ACL injury. While there is still a lot of work to do, advancements in knee brace systems have allowed athletes to reduce the risk of ACL injury and help them recover more quickly from ACL surgery.
Therefore, in this article, we would like to provide our Top 5 Best ACL Knee Braces, hopefully allowing you to gain a better sense of how they work, and what type of knee brace may be best for you and your particular knee injury. These ACL knee braces are not ranked in any particular order, as we are attempting to show a variety of knee braces that offer different levels of support, so the condition of your knee will ultimately determine your choice.
We will also provide some more general information about the ACL and ACL injuries in general, so feel free to check that out as well!
Reviews - Best ACL Knee Brace
The Breg T-Scope ACL Knee Brace is one of the most popular knee braces for ACL injuries due to the attractive balance between function and cost. It certainly isn't the cheapest ACL knee brace out there, but it is way cheaper than some of the highest-end custom models, so the end result is an ACL knee brace that offers excellent value. In fact, we voted to award the Breg T-Scope ACL Knee Brace as the best value ACL knee brace currently available.
The Breg T-Scope looks a little beefy, but that's because it offers a high level of support. It's actually surprisingly comfortable and is lighter than it looks (it weighs less than 35 oz), and while those factors do matter, the main thing is how this knee brace can help with an ACL injury. Fortunately, the Breg T-Scope is capable of providing substantial post-operative knee support, as you can lock it at various angles of knee extension to help immobilize the knee joint completely. You can easily lock this brace into positions of -10, 0, 10, 20, and 30 degrees of knee extension.
If you need to be able to move your leg, don't worry, this knee brace isn't the same thing as a cast. While you can lock it in certain positions for immobilization, you don't have to always use this feature, and instead, you can wear this brace in a manner that provides nearly full range of motion in a very controlled manner. We say "almost" because you can apply stops that will limit your range of motion, so you can be free to move while ensuring that you don't move your knee joint beyond a certain position.
The telescoping calf and thigh sleeves make this ACL knee brace suitable for anyone with the height range of 5'0" and 6'4", and it's convenient in that the same brace can be worn on either the left or the right leg. It's also really easy to put on and adjust, so try not to be intimidated by the robotic appearance!
There are a couple nice features throughout the Breg T-Scope worth mentioning as well. For example, this brace comes with a BridgeTech incision pad, which relieves pressure and adds comfort around the incision site. In general, we would consider this brace to be thoughtful in design overall, as the padding has been optimized to be as comfortable as possible without making the brace to big or compromising the level of knee support.
Overall, the Breg-Tscope is one of the best ACL knee braces out there. It's especially great for post-operative care, assuming you fall between the heights of 5'0" and 6'4", but can still be worn while you return to your feet, as it offers controlled range of motion to the desired degree. The only downside is that you may need to fiddle with the brace a little bit if you plan on using it while walking. Too tight may irritate the skin on some individuals, but too loose and you may lack some available support. However, to a large degree, the Breg T-Scope gets the job done and more, and we think it offers great quality at a reasonable price.
DonJoy is a hghly reputable brand, especially when it comes to ACL knee braces. We're not saying that you should avoid lesser-known brands, but there is some level of confidence that comes with a product that has been well-liked by so many people. Even within DonJoy itself, there are so many braces that it can be really difficult to find the one that is best for you. In this case, we believe the DonJoy Legend SE-4 ACL Knee Brace offers a nice combination of all the great features people have come to like about DonJoy knee braces.
The first thing we should mention is that this particular brace in the image above is for the right leg only, but of course, you can also get the exact same thing for the left leg. You might be surprised how often this is overlooked. Now, assuming that this brace is applied to the correct leg, DonJoy has stated that they intend this knee brace to be used for moderate to severe ACL , PCL, LCL, MCL, and/or combine instabilities.
The low-profile design often fools people at first glance. It certainly doesn't look beefy or overly supportive, but the support is there, just in a smart design that keeps most of the front of your leg free from lots of strapping and padding. It is constructed with exceptionally strong material - aircraft-grade aluminum with a Kraton coating - which won't chip, rust, or corrode. The latter is a bonus for those who spend time in saltwater, such as surfers. It's also cleverly designed with a patented 4-point dynamic leverage system that helps prevent knee subluxations.
The main downside to this brace is that it doesn't completely lock at various increments, meaning it might not be the best immediately following surgery. While it does provide a firm end point to your range of motion, this can't be adjusted to restrict your motion to just a small degree. If these features were incorporated, the brace itself would be much larger and heavier.
Overall, this is one of the best ACL knee braces, especially in terms of comfort. It's pretty expensive compared to most other braces (although you can find some other braces that are still way more expensive - usually custom), which may seem odd considering you can't lock it in certain positions, but this is because it's so lightweight, low-profile, and comfortable, that many people with moderate-to-severe ACL instability absolutely love wearing it. Therefore, if you don't need to keep your leg fully immobilized, you have moderate-to-severe ACL instability (or any ligaments in the knee), and you have room in the budget, we would definitely recommend the DonJoy Legend SE-4 ACL Knee Brace.
For a more visual demonstration with instruction on how to put on the DonJoy Legend SE-4 ACL Knee Brace, please check out the great video tutorial below:
Also voted by us as one of the best knee braces for football players, the Shock Doctor 875 provides bi-lateral hinged support for a high level of stability. It includes a neoprene sleeve, stretch mesh, aluminum hinges, and 4-way strap system to maximize stability. Although the Shock Doctor is a fairly heavy duty brace, the mesh system allows for comfortable heat ventilation while the vented neoprene provides good moisture-wicking ability.
This is an advanced knee brace and can provide support for moderate to major sprains and knee instability. This product is a bit snug at first but should break in with a few days of exercise. Customers who have used this product long-term are happy with the stability it provides without restricting natural movement of the knee brace, but as you may have guessed from the general design, the hinges do not lock into place at various increments, so it won't completely immobilize your knee, as is often desired immediately following surgery.
The Shock Doctor 875 Knee Brace has incorporated some recent innovation in the form of their patent-pending X-Fit strap system to help provide strong, yet comfortable, support. The tempered aluminum stability system stays securely anchored with the Hypalon sleeves, and the bilateral support hinges come with a hyperextension stopper and impact absorbing base pads. The only potential issue for athletes that wear lower body equipment, such as football players, is that the thigh portion is slightly thicker than some other knee braces, so it may require some adjustment of your lowers to fit comfortably, but this can be done fairly easily.
Overall, this knee brace is great for anyone who is lacking stability in their knee joint, especially due to ACL injury. It is comparable with the McDavid 429X knee brace that we will review below, especially in terms of cost, so you have some options! The main advantages of this Shock Doctor 875 knee brace are in the strength and durability, which are known to be top-notch for the price range, but that also comes at the cost of a slightly heavier and more rugged design. Depending on the nature of your injury, this could be great, or on the other hand it could be a little over-the-top, but in general, this is one of the best ACL knee braces under $100.
The McDavid 429X Hinged Knee Brace is quite similar to the more well-known McDavid 422 knee brace, but the 429X offers added stability in the form of cross-strapping, which is great when it comes to maximizing the level of support for your knee joint. In general, McDavid is similar to DonJoy in that it is also an extremely reliable brand known for crafting really nice braces, so there is that added level of confidence in the product.
The hinges on this brace are designed similar to any other hinged knee brace, providing a good level of medial and lateral support. That being said, what we really like about this brace is the incorporation of the cross-strapping system in combination with the hinges, as the cross-straps will help rotational and collateral ligament support (great for the ACL), and also provides some compression for mild pain relief and a secure feeling.
While this is an open-patella design, the 360 degree padded buttress actually supports the patella as well. The bound edges prevent irritation and the back panel is perforated, which helps keep the back of your knee as dry and sweat-free as possible. The adjustable top and bottom straps help ensure a proper fit, and the neoprene material also helps provide therapeutic compression for pain relief. Conveniently, this ACL knee brace can be worn on either the left or right knee.
The main downsides to this brace are two-fold. First, the size runs a little small when compared to other braces. This isn't a big problem if you are aware of it, but if you sort of fall between sizes, we would suggest going with the larger one. Second, while the back panel is perforated, many people prefer the feeling of having nothing there at all simply for comfort reasons. We're not exactly sure if this back panel is crucial for maintaining the stability or compression of the brace, but we wouldn't recommend removing it.
Overall, this is one of the top knee braces for ACL instabilities, especially at such a low price point. Similar to the Shock Doctor 875, some people find this feels a little more bulky compared to other braces with a low profile design, but the added material is there for a reason. It helps provide great support and therapeutic compression, the latter of which can be good for osteoarthritis, and it decreases the number of joints and smaller mechanical components, maximizing the reliability for the price. If you're a fan of McDavid, or you're on a strict budget and need some added knee stability, we would definitely consider the McDavid 429X Hinged Knee Brace to be a top candidate.
This is another great ACL knee brace that is comparable in price to the DonJoy Legen SE-4 ACL Knee Brace. The main difference between the two is that the Medi USA Protect 4 EVO ACL Knee Brace does have the functionality of immobilizing the knee joint altogether, or assigning various strict end points to the range of motion, which is lacking in the DonJoy brace that we reviewed above.
This knee brace is great for recovery from ACL injuries and surgery. The polycentric hinges provide knee extension limits at 0, 10, 20, 30, and 45 degrees, as well as knee flexion limits at 0, 10, 20, 30, 45, 60, 75, and 90 degrees. Finally, it can be immobilized at 0, 10, 20, 30, and 45 degrees.
The frame of the brace is crafted from aluminum and is very lightweight, adaptable, and low-profile in design. It's not quite minimal or lightweight to the extent of the DonJoy Legend SE-4, but it makes up for this in the highly functional hinges. Even still, this brace is very lightweight and low-profile compared to most other knee braces on the market.
This brace also utilizes a 4-point principle to maximize stability, especially in terms of flexion and extension. This will help prevent any sort of anterior or posterior tibial glide, as well as a reduction in medial rotation, which is great when you're trying to protect either the ACL or PCL. In terms of comfort and convenience, the soft padding grip material is very comfortable and lightweight, and combined with the low-profile and well-designed frame, this brace is very comfortable. The straps are also conveniently numbered, so you can be sure to place them in the correct spots for the best knee support possible.
Overall, this is an excellent ACL knee brace that combines some of the functionality of the Breg T-Scope ACL Knee Brace with the slimness of the DonJoy Legend SE-4 ACL Knee Brace. This brace has a lot to offer if your looking for maximum protection and comfort, but it comes at a pretty steep cost. The main downside to this brace, aside from the cost (but in this case, you get what you pay for), is that it can sometimes be difficult to track down. Nevertheless, when available, this ACL knee brace offers a decent amount of everything, especially protection of the ACL and all-around comfort.
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
What and where is the ACL?
The ACL is a ligament in the knee joint. Ligaments are passive structures, in that they cannot be actively controlled. For example, a muscle is an active structure because you can flex and relax muscles on command. However, ligaments are almost like really stiff elastic bands that connect two bones together, providing passive support. Ligaments are found around all the joints in the body, and they serve to strengthen and add stability to the joint.
The surfaces of the knee joint are actually quite uneven. Unlike the ball-and-socket hip joint, which fits together like a puzzle or mechanical structure, the knee joint essentially puts a rounded surface (bottom of femur) onto a flat surface (top of tibia). The meniscus, which is a cartilagenous figure-8 shaped ring, helps to deepen the tibial surface for a better fit with the femur, but it would still be quite unstable on its own.
This is why the ligaments in and around the knee joints are so important. They help to hold everything together from all side. The LCL supports the lateral (outside) of your knee, the MCL supports the medial (inside) side of your knee, whereas the ACL and PCL are both found on the inside of the knee joint cavity. They sort of criss-cross, and the ACL stops the tibia from moving forward with respect to a stationary femur, and the PCL does the opposite - prevents backwards translation of the tibia with respect to the femur.
What are the Causes of an ACL Injury?
The exact mechanism of an ACL injury is highly variable, but in sports, an ACL tear usually occur when the foot is planted and the knee joint continues to move. Hyperextension is a big factor in ACL injuries, which is why ACL braces tend to prevent any sort of hyperextension. Knee rotation on a planted foot is also a big cause of ACL injuries. These types of rotational injuries to the ACL often occur alongside injuries tot he meniscus and MCL as well.
Another major mechanism of ACL injury is sudden deceleration. This can help one visualize how the ACL works. Imagine running really fast and the all of a sudden planting your foot in front of you, so your knee is at an approximate right angle with your foot flat on the ground. If you keep your foot and shin stationary, but your momentum continues to carry your body (and mainly femur) over your knee joint, this could place excessive stress and strain on the ACL, potentially causing a tear. Even though the tibia isn't moving backwards like we said before, a forward-moving femur with respect to a stationary tibia is the exact same thing.
Therefore, basically every sport has some level of risk involved when it comes to the potential for ACL injuries. Contact sports, sports that involve a lot of cutting, as well as sports that involve a lot of jumping, all have more frequent occurrences of ACL injuries. Fortunately, ACL knee braces, such as those reviewed above, can not only help speed the recovery of an ACL injury, but also help decrease the risk of an ACL injury from happening in the first place.
We hope you found this guide to the best ACL knee braces helpful in determining your selection. Of course, this will depend largely on the nature of your injury, and as such, we must remind you that it is best to have your injury assessed by a doctor or physiotherapist rather than diagnosis yourself. They will likely have some information about braces that could help, but we know for sure all of the knee braces reviewed above are suitable in some form for ACL injuries. Good luck!