Best Knee Brace for Pickleball

Best Knee Brace for Pickleball - Pro's Picks For Protection

Pickleball is a fun and fast-paced sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. But while it’s less demanding than these sports, it can still take a toll on the knees and may cause occasional injuries.

Here’s where knee braces and sleeves come into the picture - they come in handy for injury prevention and support. If you’re looking for the best knee brace for pickleball, we’ve gathered our best picks to help you choose better support.

Playing pickleball in a knee sleeve

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Top 3 Quick Picks

1. McDavid Knee Support With Stays & Cross Straps

2. DonJoy Bionic Knee Brace

3. Shock Doctor Knee Support With Bilateral Hinges

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Anatomy of a Knee Brace

Knee braces support the knee while it recovers from injuries and prevents further risk of them during physical activity. They also unload stress from your knee joint and keep it from sudden or extreme movement.

Knee braces are mainly worn to help facilitate recovery among athletes with knee injuries while performing high-intensity sports and workouts and can also serve as a form of protection from injuries during these activities. They are usually made from a combination of metal, foam, plastic, elastic material, and nylon straps.

Aside from preventing injuries, they’ve also proven to be effective in helping arthritis patients in relieving pain, stiffness, and other symptoms.

There are varying types of knee braces:

  • Prophylactic - Prophylactic braces are worn to prevent knee injuries, especially for athletes who play rough contact sports like football or rugby. This is the type of brace you should use for pickleball.
  • Functional - Functional braces are the most common type of brace people wear after a knee injury. These braces help you move your knee safely, preventing it from moving too much or going too far in one direction. 
  • Rehabilitative - Similar to functional braces, rehabilitative braces also support the knee joints and help limit knee movement while it recovers from injury or surgery. Ergo, they’re usually stiffer than other knee braces. 
  • Unloader - Unloader knee braces relieve pressure from the knee and distribute it to stronger parts of the leg to have it support movement. They’re the most commonly used for knee arthritis patients.
  • Patellofemoral knee braces - This type of knee brace reduces knee pain by compressing the patellar tendon (in the kneecaps) and relieving pain and stress on the tendon and the front of the knee.
types of knee braces

Choosing the Right Knee Brace for Pickleball

Factors to Consider

When choosing a knee brace, you should consider the following factors

  • Type of knee brace - Choosing a type of knee brace depends on the physical activities you do. Competitive players and athletes require a stronger type of knee brace with moderate to maximum knee support, while those who do less extreme sports can opt for mild support braces.
  • Specific injuries - Certain braces are suited for particular injuries. Patellofemoral knee braces work best for kneecap injuries, while meniscus tears require unloader knee braces. 
  • Fit and comfort - The brace should be snug and secure without being too tight that it constricts the blood flow to your leg. While some knee braces are designed to limit knee movement, they shouldn’t restrict it completely.
  • Material - Choose a knee brace that your skin is comfortable with. Sometimes, the material and constant friction can cause rashes to appear.

Top 3 Knee Braces for Pickleball: Reviews and Comparisons

1. McDavid Knee Support With Stays & Cross Straps

McDavid Knee Support Brace for pickleball

McDavid’s Knee Support braces help promote recovery from knee injuries, relieve pain and stiffness, and prevent the risk of injuries, thanks to its elastic cross straps, which enhance compression and support the rotational and collateral ligament, while its 360˚ padded buttress protects the patella.

In terms of material durability and comfort, the build is made from latex-free neoprene with a micro-cell structure, perforated back panel, and cell memory, allowing maximum heat insulation and moisture management, better stretch quality, and overall longer-lasting support, covered with a layer of nylon fabric for added integrity.

Customer Reviews

Here’s what a customer said of their review of the McDavid knee brace:

“7 years ago, after injuring my knee in a basketball game, I thought I would never play the same again... after a while, my uncle got me this, and it helped me recover from my injury! Knee tendonitis, after wearing it for 1 year, I'm finally back to my old self, I don't use the knee brace anymore.” 

2. DonJoy Bionic Knee Brace

DonJoy Bionic Knee Brace

If you’re looking for maximum ergonomic ability, DonJoy’s Bionic Knee Brace’s wraparound design with a stretch webbing closure that adjusts and fits almost every knee size. Its build is covered with perforated neoprene to allow better breathability and prevent sweat moisture from building up while still preventing it from slipping.

The brace has soft hinges on both sides that are built with stops to limit excess knee movement without constricting blood flow. It also supports knee instability with lateral and medial protection to minimize tears and injuries.

Customer Reviews

John went back to shooting hoops with ease, thanks to his DonJoy purchase:

“This brace has allowed me to play basketball without pain during or after. I was getting really frustrated with my old knee and was not getting much relief from other braces I had tried. This brace Is awesome.”

3. Shock Doctor Ultra Knee Support With Bilateral Hinges

Shock Doctor Ultra Knee Support With Bilateral Hinges

Shock Doctor’s Ultra Knee Support braces allow you to put your best foot forward with maximum stability and support for any moderate to major knee injuries.

If you’re prone to injuries, tears, and sprains, this Shock Doctor knee brace reduces the effect and impact of sudden knee movement thanks to its bilateral hinges with hyperextension stops and shock-absorbing base pads. Its material build made of tempered aluminum allows it to snug securely and comfortably. 

The brace also allows for maximum comfort with its four-way stretch spandex [elastane] mesh, while its superior stitching and finishing ensure long-lasting durability. 

Customer Reviews

This customer, despite his age, still enjoys contact sports with his Shock Doctor braces.

“For five years, I’ve worn these braces, and they’ve allowed me to play soccer multiple times per week (age 65+) while preventing further injury. Sizing called for Large, which I purchased for five years…While snug, they provide greater support.”

Product Rating

Price

McDavid

4.5 / 5 

$54.99

DonJoy

4 / 5

$69.99

Shock Doctor

4.5 / 5

$74.99

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Maintenance and Care for Knee Braces

Cleaning and Storage Tips

Taking good care of your brace prolongs its lifespan and makes it more comfortable to wear.

How often you should your knee brace depends on the type of brace you have and often you wear them. For braces with metal structures inside, it’s enough to wipe it down with a damp washcloth or wet wipes, while for braces without metal components, it’s probably safe to launder every few days with mild soap or detergent. 

Avoid storing braces in a gym bag or other dirty, damp spaces. Don’t crumple or fold them to maintain their form and integrity.

When To Replace Your Knee Brace

How long a knee brace lasts depends on how you maintain it. But it can last up to 2 years if you use it regularly and how you clean and store it afterward.

Consider getting a new knee brace if the straps or seams have completely worn out and have started tearing off or if any components have loosened. If physical changes in your body cause the brace to become too loose or too tight, you’ll need a more suitable replacement.

Knee Sleeves vs Braces

Playing pickleball in a knee sleeve

Knee sleeves provide compression to the knee joint, which promotes blood flow to the area, keeps the knees warm during physical activity, and helps stabilize the knee joint in movements like bending or squatting.

Compared to knee braces, knee sleeves offer milder support, focusing more on compression.

The structural elements of a knee brace, like its hinges, straps, and other reinforcements, provide more rigid support and stability to protect injured knees from further damage and cut the risk of injuries.

Best Knee Sleeves for Pickleball

1. PowerKnit Knee Sleeve

Copper Compression PowerKnit Knee Sleeve

Reach peak reps and goals with the PowerKnit Knee Sleeve. Its 4-way stretch construction warms key muscles and tendons to help prevent strain and fatigue.

The brace’s seamless knit design provides consistent joint stabilization and support while enhancing movements and providing the flexibility to flow freely. It also helps prevent knee stiffness, soreness, and other related injuries. The material build is breathable enough to keep you cool and dry, preventing the risk of odor-causing moisture.

2. Incrediwear Knee Sleeve

Incrediwear Knee Sleeve for pickleball

The Incrediwear Knee Sleeve provides easier mobility and joint support for athletes with acute or chronic joint injuries and conditions. In fact, studies have proven Incrediwear’s efficiency in improving recovery and lessening injury risks among athletes who’ve worn it.

The build also allows for maximum comfort. Its form-fitting fabric snugs well without restricting mobility, and it’s also breathable enough to keep the knees cool and dry. Its 3D weave design also leaves a good feel on the skin.

Knee Brace or Knee Sleeves for Pickleball – Which Is Better?

Both knee braces and knee sleeves offer a degree of protection to the knee joint, prevent excess movement, and evade injury risk. However, given the intensity of pickleball and other similar contact sports, it’s safe to say that knee braces are the better choice since they provide stronger knee protection and help cut the risk of sudden movements and injuries.

When To Consult with Healthcare Professionals

If the injured knee joints continue to become painful and sore, or in the instance of an injury during a game, seek immediate medical attention to receive proper treatment.

Physical Therapy For Affected Knee Joints

Physical therapy involves employing strategies like a structured exercise program for injured joints to allow the muscles and soft tissues around the knee to absorb the impact during movement.

Physical therapists might also recommend doing low-impact exercises like brisk walking, cycling, and swimming, which can strengthen the muscles around affected joints and minimize pain and stiffness.

Treatment Methods

RICE Method for knee pain

The RICE Method

RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. This method is a common first-aid self-care technique to facilitate recovery from minor injuries, especially in the knees.

  • Rest - Rest and stop any physical activity that may involve joint movement.
  • Ice - Put an ice pack on the afflicted knee several times daily for up to 20 minutes. 
  • Compression - Firmly wrap the injury with a bandage or compression sleeve to speed recovery. The compression reduces swelling and tension in the affected area.
  • Elevation - Elevate the affected knee above the level of the heart to decrease swelling and joint pain.

OTC Medications

NSAIDs and analgesics help provide pain relief and mobility among people with knee injuries. Popular pain relievers like ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and duloxetine (Cymbalta) have been noted to provide mild to moderate knee pain.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a popular treatment recommended for knee pain, especially for those who to provide additional pain relief. Though it may vary individually, patients may undergo up to eight sessions to yield positive results.

Injections

Injections provide relief for joint pain from inflammation. There are three types of injections for knee injuries: 

  • Corticosteroid injections –  Prevents and relieves inflammation around the knee areas.
  • Hyaluronic acid injections – Provides lubrication of the joints to help increase mobility.
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections – A concentration of the patient’s platelets is injected to hasten the recovery of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints.

Joint Replacement Surgery

Joint replacement surgery is the last resort in more drastic cases. This surgery involves replacing a few parts (partial) or an entire damaged joint (total) with a prosthesis made of metal, plastic, or ceramic. Many in this position wonder if you can still play pickleball after a knee replacement. So we did the research for you. 

FAQ Section

1. How does playing pickleball impact the knees, and how can the right knee brace help?

Pickleball involves movements such as rapid starting/stopping and sudden turning or pivoting leg movements, which could cause knee stress. Knee braces help protect the knees from impact or trauma and help promote recovery from past injuries. Wearing the brace with a sprained or injured knee can offset the force on an uninjured part.

2. Can wearing a knee brace improve my performance in pickleball?

Wearing knee braces helps protect knees during pickleball by providing rigid support and stability that can reduce the risk of injuries during sudden movements, which goes down further when the regimen is combined with proper training, technique, and mindfulness.

3. Are there any risks associated with using knee braces while playing pickleball?

While braces offer support, relying on them completely isn’t recommended. Prolonged and improper use of a knee brace can affect the blood flow in the legs, causing leg numbing and stiffness. It’s important to secure the knee brace enough without it being too tight or numbing.

4. How do I properly fit a knee brace for pickleball?

When you pick a knee brace for pickleball, make sure to get one that’s right for your size. Otherwise, it can’t serve its purpose well if it’s too loose or tight. 

One sure way to check if it fits is to do the Two-Finger Test:

  • Put on your knee brace and secure the straps.
  • Slide two fingers under a strap. If your two fingers cannot fit under the strap, then it may be too tight; loosen the strap a bit and repeat the test. If they slide too easily, it’s too loose.
  • Adjust the straps as needed. Repeat the procedure for every strap on your brace.

5. How often should I replace my knee brace, and what signs indicate it's time for a new one?

A quality knee brace should last for a couple of years if used and maintained properly. However, if the straps start tearing or if the fabric build starts to get worn out or disintegrate, replace your braces. You can also opt for smaller or larger sizes depending on your BMI.

6. Can a knee sleeve be a suitable alternative to a brace for pickleball players?

A knee sleeve is less rigid and more breathable compared to a knee brace. Other athletes also use it alternatively during workouts, specifically squats. However, it has a lesser degree of protection and stability, and given the intensity of pickleball, a knee brace has the components that allow it to absorb impact and trauma, making it the preferable option.

Conclusion

Knee braces help pickleball players and other contact sport players gain control and stability of their knee joint movements and prevent them from injury risk. It also relieves pain from knee joint injuries and osteoarthritis and helps post-surgical recovery.

Be sure to consult with your physical therapist or healthcare provider regarding knee brace concerns. They can help you use the right knee brace and make sure that your knee brace is fitted properly. 

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