Full-on knee braces vs. knee guards for dual sport riding

Discussion in 'The Perfect Line and Other Riding Myths' started by 2thdrinOR, Aug 27, 2021.

  1. Sparrowhawk

    Sparrowhawk Long timer Supporter

    Sep 26, 2005
    Eastern Washington, USA
    Knee braces are good insurance, just like good helmet, boots, and gloves. Dual sport riding you'll probably never need them. But if you get into a off balance fall in rocky ground with a little twist mixed in you might be happy to have worn them.

    A good friend never thought about needing chest protection until a calf got an idea to run across the road to his mom in front of him. It was a slow speed impact but resulted in broken ribs, a punctured lung, and helicopter ride.

    Ya never know.
    2thdrinOR likes this.
  2. PeterW

    PeterW Long timer

    Nov 11, 2005
    Gold Coast
    I'm also a fan of the MTB soft knee protectors mainly because I like to do long rides. i.e. several days. By the end of day one I won't be wearing the bulky knee protectors, just the chafing becomes a problem after 4 hours. I'm not saying they don't work just that they are no use at all if they aren't there when I crash. The MTB stuff has to be comfortable, it's not as protective sure but at least it's there.

    That's the other caution about the bulky stuff, you may be better off with less protective but comfortable, particularly if you find yourself leaving to good gear at home. Either because it's bulky or just because - I noticed a couple of posts from people who'd sold theirs because ....
  3. kneeslider

    kneeslider Insufficient privileges!

    Jul 28, 2004
    Southeastern Xenophobia
    While I am not a doctor, but have played one one a number of occasions my following recommendation is wear guards, unless you have a preexisting condition that would dictate a brace. My comments are also based on real life experience!
    Motonirvana likes this.
  4. dmitriy_adv

    dmitriy_adv Dmitriy M

    May 17, 2012
    All over the USA
    I’m in my late 30’s, have had a full ACL tear (not motorcycle related) and subsequent repair. I got a custom Donjoy brace following that procedure, which I wear when riding off-road type stuff, where I’m expecting crashes, but at relatively low speeds. After some minor injuries to my other knee at various enduros, I got an off the shelf Pod K8 for that side. While it doesn’t fit nearly as well as my custom Donjoy, it seems to have stopped the knee sprains, so it appears to be doing it’s job.

    From my own experience and knowing quite a few people who had ACL tears due to dirtbike and soccer related things, it’s amazing how easy it is to damage those ligaments. It doesn’t seem to take a lot of force, it just needs to be applied in the wrong direction. This is why I will continue to wear knee braces for gnarlier off-road stuff.

    That being said, a few thoughts —

    First of all, my orthopedic surgeon does a lot of repairs on various athletes and his recommendation/opinion was that a brace is a supportive device secondary to your own body. He actually said to stop using after a year or so, because your own strength will be far superior, and the brace just won’t do much. Apparently hitting the gym for that hated “leg day” will give you stronger muscles, tendons, and bones, which are way more effective at preventing injury. Not that braces don’t work, but according to him it should be considered at most 20% of what prevents injury.

    Second, regarding femur risks - it’s important to remember that people break leg bones all the time and most of them aren’t wearing knee braces. I think that while there is some overlap, knee ligament injuries and leg bone breaks happen in different kinds of crashes. You get tear up ligaments when your leg gets twisted in a rut, gets slips/gets pushed sideways or caught and hyperextended. You break bones if you hit something like a rock, tree, the ground, or your bike hard enough.
    Then at certain speeds and energy levels you’re basically guaranteed to get hurt if something goes pear shaped. I normally don’t wear my knee braces when I’m adventure riding (lots of street), not because I think they’re going to move my ACL injury to my femur, but because I don’t think they’ll do anything. At street speeds, depending on how you crash, your ACL or your femur, or both, are going to be toast anyway.
    There are a billion ways to crash on a motorcycle and no two are the same. A friend of mine broke a femur while wearing knee braces… would he have had a torn ACL without it? Maybe… I broke my tibia on a dirt bike while wearing a knee brace. Would I have had just a torn ACL without it? Probably not (the surgeon agreed), the knee brace actually held all the bits together after the break and I may have had a much worse, much more displaced, and possibly compound fracture without it.

    Finally, if you do get a set of knee braces, they have to fit well and tight to your legs. When I got my custom Donjoy the fitting process was eye opening as to just how tight they have to be. Specifically -
    * When it’s on, you should not be able to grab it and move it around relative to your body. Just like a well fitting helmet, if you try to move it around it moves with your leg.
    * When you fully extend your leg you should feel a hard stop from the brace, if you don’t, it won’t protect you.
    * The hinged part should be up against your knee joint on both sides, with no air gap, so your knee is protected against unwanted side to side movement.
    2thdrinOR likes this.
  5. mr2autoxr

    mr2autoxr Been here awhile

    Feb 23, 2011
    Dexter, MI
    I'm that guy that Dmitriy_adv mentioned who broke his femur wearing knee braces.

    It was 2015 and I was 35 years old, no history of knee/ACL/etc. issues and I decided to wear a set of knee braces I received for free from a friend who got out of the sport. I set them up with the proper hyperextension limits and such, but the first time out wearing them, BAM! I had my worst crash ever. I was in a family enduro and probably not running more that 12mph but I clipped a small tree with my handlebars, it threw me off balance and caused me to grab a handful of throttle.

    Right into the next tree, my body was trying to go over the handlebars, but my right leg was trapped between the tank and handlebars as my body kept going forward. I immediately heard the snap of my femur and knew I busted my leg. It hurt like hell and I did my best to not freak out, but the first 2-3 minutes afterwards was tough to stay relaxed. I made it out of the woods and after surgery (rod down my leg) and some PT I was back on the bike 6 months later. I'm about 99% recovered and only every once in a while do I get an achy feeling in my knee. I believe that is caused by the 2 pins holding the rod in place just above my kneecap.

    I am actually glad I had the braces on, I just read a lot of stuff about tearing apart your knee and then just having way more issues later in life, needing lots of surgeries as you get older or it gets hurt easier. I recovered about as well as I could have hoped. I'm sure it was because I was 35 and in good shape. There probably is no question that if the brace wasn't there transferring the force of my body going over the bars into my femur, that my knee would have taken all the force and the damage would have been there.

    To this day I still wear the same knee braces that took me out for almost all rides. I do more trail riding and always wear them there. If I'm doing easy dual sport or commuting them I rely on the pads in my Klim Carlsbad pants. For milder dual sporting, I still lean to wearing the braces for those cases of dabbing your feet and twisting your knee.

    Here is the crash at 2:27 in
    dmitriy_adv, Bhart89 and ZoomerP like this.
  6. Bhart89

    Bhart89 Long timer Supporter

    Nov 12, 2013
    Indianapolis, IN
    One small benefit I like for braces over knee guards for dual sport rides is that guards seem to rub my knee caps raw after a few hours. Braces keep the actual protection off the knee making them more comfortable during the ride.
  7. Norty01

    Norty01 Occupant

    Jan 30, 2014
    Depends on “how” you ride. Each rider must weigh risk vs. reward when riding.
  8. chardog1971

    chardog1971 Been here awhile

    Aug 13, 2020
    I have been a finish carpenter and cabinet installer for a long time. Combine with years of telemark skiing and you get sore knees.
    I have been using knee braces when my knees are bothering me for a few years now. Helps alot at work. Keeps my muscles warm when its cold out.
    Irritating directly on skin when it is hot though.
    I have a pair of shin/ knee pads if I'm riding somewhere where there are obstacles I might hit. The braces don't interfere with them that I can tell.