Bracing for Return To Play after ACL Reconstruction Surgery
With anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, there is always the question of whether bracing is necessary upon returning to activities/sports. The protocol is different amongst local surgeons so we often get asked by patients whether it is needed or not. So, what does the research actually say about functional ACL bracing for athletes and its effectiveness in protecting the knee from re-injury?
After looking at a couple of systematic reviews on the effectiveness of bracing after ACL reconstruction, it is clear that there is limited evidence supporting the theory that bracing decreases re-tears of the ACL. Some data suggest that functional bracing may have some benefit with regard to in vivo knee (inside the knee joint) kinematics (movements) and may offer increased protection of the implanted graft after ACL reconstruction without sacrificing function, range of motion, or proprioception. However, limited evidence exists supporting the use of routine functional bracing to decrease the rate of re-injury after ACL reconstruction.
So, should you wear a brace upon your return to sports after ACL reconstruction surgery? While there may be no strong evidence that it helps reduce re-injury, it may add psychological support for an athlete integrating back into activity. Ultimately, we always recommend that you listen to your surgeon and follow their instructions regarding bracing!
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