Last month, the Dallas Cowboys offensive and defensive linemen started practice with knee braces on. This wasn’t a personal decision by the players – it was a new requirement put in place by Coach Jason Garrett.
Said Garrett, “We think it’s good. It’s a good preventative measure. Sometimes guys get rolled up on the offensive and defensive line. It happens away from them, a guy falls on them. It’s been a long study through the years, it’s been going on for 30-plus years, about the value of knee braces. I’ve been on teams that used them, haven’t used them, swear by them, don’t think they make any difference. We just think as an organization it’s a good thing for us to be able to do. We got them all custom made for those guys. They’re wearing them now for practice. We’ll make our evaluations as we go forward.”
This decision came after Cowboys LB Sean Lee suffered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament on the very first day of practice.
Leg injuries are the most common injury in professional football, with knee injuries taking up the majority of these injuries. And, while players may complain about bulky braces slowing them down, injuries reduce pay and can lead to early retirement.
Proper knee braces protect knee ligaments from sudden movements such as pivoting, cutting, sidestepping, and awkward landings. They also protect ligaments from tearing from sudden contact with another player, a frequent event in professional football.
Some universities, like South Florida, already require the use of knee braces in practice, but it’s unclear whether it will catch on with professional football teams, especially in game situations.
“It makes it harder to run a little bit,” said NT Terrell McClain “Being that it adds weight to your leg when you’re running around, when you take them off you’ll probably move a little faster. I guess there’s pros and cons to it.”
For the rest of us, especially those of us who participate in pick-up or neighborhood football leagues and don’t mind losing a second or two in speed, wearing braces during play is always a great way to avoid costly injuries.