The recent news that Lindsey Vonn will not be racing at the upcoming Olympics due to her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury last season has brought attention to knee problems for all skiers. According to Vermont Safety Research, more than 20,000 skiers suffer ACL injuries each year. The ACL is one of major ligaments in the knee that give the joint stability.
In cases of a complete ACL tear, the ligament is often surgically reconstructed by using tissue from a cadaver or a graft from a patient's patellar tendon. After surgery, many skiers feel more comfortable skiing with a brace on the reconstructed knee. Shock Doctor makes a line of knee supports including the Ultra Knee Support with Bilateral Hinges ($70).
Following ACL reconstruction surgery, Prosper Wang, of Littleton, Colo., was skiing with a custom brace obtained through his doctor. Wang recently tested the Shock Doctor knee support to compare it with his custom brace.
Prosper Wang: Ski Gear Tester
According to their website, the Shock Doctor Ultra Knee Support is intended to provide medium stability and support for moderate to major ligament sprains, muscle strains and unstable joints. As someone who has had 4 knee surgeries in 3 years due to an ACL and medial meniscus tear, I was a bit apprehensive about skiing without my custom-fit brace.
The Ultra is significantly shorter than my custom knee brace and is slightly lower profile. Initially, it was very tight and difficult to pull on and take off. The second time I wore the brace, the fit was much more comfortable. While skiing with the brace, I noticed that it didn’t inhibit my mobility and provided a nice level of lateral support. While it didn’t provide as much support as my custom brace, I did feel secure enough and had no problems skiing with it all day. However, given my previous knee history, I prefer to wear my custom brace due to the additional support."
The Shock Doctor website includes the disclaimer: "this product is not a substitute for medical care. Always see professional medical advice for the diagnosis and treatment of pain, injury or irritation.” Along those lines, a decision regarding a custom brace versus one such as the Shock Doctor Ultra may depend on the specifics of a particular medical case as evaluated by a physician.
The best advice for an ACL injury is to avoid one in the first place (see video above). Vermont Safety Research has developed suggestions for preventing an ACL injury in a fall. Backward, twisting falls most commonly cause ACL injuries through the "phantom-foot syndrome." When a skier succumbs to the natural temptation of reaching back or sitting back to break a fall, the tail of the ski and the stiff back of the boot act as a lever and put stress on the knee ligament.
Avoiding ACL Injury
- Keep arms forward when falling
- Keep skis together
- Do not try to get up when sliding
Disclaimer: Shock Doctor knee support was provided for the purposes of testing.