The Brief History of Knee Braces

At Better Braces, knee braces are a large part of what we do. While knee braces are a common sight in sports, that hasn’t always been the case. It might be interesting to know that the modern knee brace — used to prevent injury — has only been around since 1967.

The late 60s were important for the evolution of knee braces. In 1967, a professor of physiology, Dr. Robert F. McDavid, invented the first lateral knee brace designed to prevent injury or reinjury. His brace provided lateral protection of the knee. Then during the 1967 season and Super Bowl III, Hall of Fame New York Jets’ Quarterback Joe Namath played with a now-famous knee brace. Jack Castiglia of the Lenox Hill Brace Shop with along with noted sports physician Dr. James Nicholas designed the brace. This allowed Namath to keep playing despite being plagued by knee problems. Namath’s knee brace was so iconic that it is now on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

During the 1970s, more prophylactic knee braces began being tested and tried by more NFL players in an effort to reduce career ending knee injuries. It was an NFL player who gave us our start.

In 1978, Philadelphia Eagles football player Mark Nordquist teamed up with two of his friends to explore the possibilities of neoprene. There in his garage in Carlsbad, CA, DJO Incorporated was formed.

The first DJO products were simple sleeves made of sewn-together neoprene that were pulled over the knee as well as the ankle and elbow joints for support. Fast forward to today where knee braces come in a variety of shapes and sizes, designed for all manner of knee injuries and prevention. Whether you suffer from knee osteoarthritis or you’re looking to keep your ACL protected during a football game, there’s a knee brace that’s right for you.






Knee Braces…which one is right for me?

Knee Braces
Knee Braces

There are a variety of knee braces, sleeves, and supports for you to choose from.  At the most basic level they all serve the same purpose by providing support to your knee.  That being said, when it comes to knee braces there is no need to go for a “one-size-fits-all” approach.  There are many knee braces with features that are designed to better help alleviate the pain from the injury or condition that plagues you.

  • Knee Sleeves. Ideal for those who suffer from mild knee pain or want extra protection for daily activities.
  • Soft Hinged Knee Braces. If you suffer from moderate pain as a result of ligament injuries, meniscus tears, and sprains, try a soft hinged knee brace.
  • Rigid Hinged Knee Braces. Worn by many collegiate and professional athletes, a rigid hinged knee brace provides maximum support for anyone suffering from ligament injuries or recovering from surgery.
  • Patella Stabilizing Knee Braces. Provides extra patella support for those suffering from patella related conditions and injuries.
  • Patella Bands and Straps. These bands and straps help relieve symptoms of patellofemoral pain (runner’s knee) and Osgood-Schlatter disease.
  • Arthritis Knee Braces. For people suffering from arthritis there are multiple knee braces that can help alleviate the painful symptoms of arthritis and enable you to go about your daily activities.

ACL Injuries in Skiers

Skiing Knee Braces
Skiing Knee Braces

Knee injuries while skiing is a hot topic as the ski resorts are getting ready to open for the season.  Researchers are also trying to reconcile conflicting findings about gender as a risk factor for injury. Investigators from Oslo analyzed a single season of data for nine World Cup alpine ski teams and found a higher rate of injury for men than women (11 vs. 5.4 injuries per 1000 runs).5 However, all 14 of the ACL injuries reported occurred in female skiers, according to Tone Bere, a researcher in the Oslo Sports Trauma Research Center.

The Oslo results about ACL and gender are consistent with those of Vermont researchers, whose 1998 survey-based study of competitive alpine ski racers6 found that female skiers are 2.3 times more likely to experience a knee injury and 3.1 times more likely to experience an ACL disruption than their male counterparts. But a 1999 study7 from the Steadman Hawkins Sports Medicine Foundation in Vail, CO, found that the incidence of ACL injury among ski patrollers or instructors does not differ significantly between men and women (4.2 vs 4.4 injuries per 100,000 skier-days), suggesting that gender may be more significant as a risk factor for competitive skiers than for skiing pros.

Of course, the primary mechanism of ACL injuries in skiers is not in question. That would be the “phantom foot” scenario, in which a skier falls backwards in such a way that the load on the ACL causes the ligament to rupture (called phantom foot because the downhill ski produces a force as if an imaginary foot were pushing on its tail). The bindings that connect the boot to the ski are designed to release when excessive levels of force are experienced, but because the ski boot typically pivots around an axis near its heel, the bindings are better able to sense loads applied at the front of the ski than those applied at the back (as in a phantom foot fall).

“What the leg feels and what the binding feels are not the same thing,” said Carl F. Ettlinger, MME, an adjunct assistant professor in orthopedics and rehabilitation at UVM and a keynote speaker in Tromsö. “We don’t necessarily have an idealized binding, one that was designed for today’s skiers.”

That may be about to change. Former competitive skier Rick Howell has designed a knee-friendly binding that features a virtual second pivot point to better respond to torque generated during phantom foot falls, as well as force-filtering technology that differentiates skiing-related forces from potentially injurious forces to minimize inadvertent binding release.

A study8 that validates the new device, called KneeBinding, was presented in July 2007 at the International Society for Skiing Safety (ISSS) conference in Aviemore, Scotland. KneeBinding is expected to be available for the upcoming ski season.

In the meantime, Johnson, Ettlinger, and others are working to promote ACL awareness among skiers, including knee-friendly techniques for skiing, falling, and recovering from falls (see

They also recommend against the more-is-better approach to tightening bindings far beyond the typical range of release settings, also known as DIN settings (typical range, four to 12). Instead of preventing injury, release settings that are too high tend to result in bindings that fail to release when they should.

“Some competitors’ bindings go up into the 20s and 30s, and there isn’t any way out at that point,” said congress keynote speaker Jasper Shealy, PhD, professor emeritus of industrial and systems engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. “It’s really gotten way out of order.”

from Biomechnics Magazine November/December 2008 by Jordana Bieze Foster

Do you suffer from a skiing knee injury?  Shop our selection of knee braces for skiing.  Wearing a knee brace while skiing can help stabilize your knee and prevent injuries.