There are a few things that I think about when making a decision on whether one of my patients who is recovering from surgery needs to continue to wear a knee brace during sports or not. This is a pretty important decision as well. Taking it off too early can lead to re-injury and frustration. Leaving it on longer than needed is not ideal either as that slows down progression to more challenges and impedes higher satisfaction with what you are doing. These are all part of my thought process before signing off on brace-free athletics:
- How do you feel about it? – This might be the most important thing I examine. Gathering up my patient’s opinions is huge. You may pass any other test I put you through, but if you don’t feel comfortable about it, then that is going to weigh heavily into a decision.
- Are you in pain? – Does it still hurt when you are going upstairs? When you start to run? When you bend your knee too much? If the answer to these questions is yes, then it probably isn’t time yet to ditch the brace.
- How far along are you post-op? – This may not need to be said, but this is important, too. There are certain times during your healing phase when it would not yet be appropriate to remove a brace. However, if you are at a point where this becomes a factor, you shouldn’t be doing the sport anyway.
- What does your stability look like? – Testing out a few things like squat form and one-legged hops will be maybe the most important indicator of readiness. If you can’t control your knee in a stable way during some basic activities, then you aren’t ready for higher-level things quite yet.
- How is your muscle strength? – A few basic muscle tests will play a part in forming a decision on this. This is especially true for checking the front muscle on your thigh, the quadriceps. Having enough strength in your quadriceps is a good indicator of how much control you have over your knee. Glute strength will also need to be checked.
All this information put together leads to an informed decision. It is truly best to have these factors analyzed by a rehab professional. However, if you do notice any of these types of issues interrupting your capabilities when you come off of a knee brace after surgery, you now have a better idea of what to look for when having a conversation with your therapist. I hope this helps! And as always, feel free to reach out to me with any questions. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out on Backcountry Physical Therapy’s social media pages. Be sure to check back on the website for more blog posts and follow us on social media for ideas on how to keep yourself pain-free!