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The Effects of a Functional Knee Brace During Early Treatment of Patients With a Nonoperated Acute Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear: A Prospective Randomized Study

Swirtun, Linda R RPT; Jansson, Anna RPT, PhD; Renström, Per MD, PhD

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: September 2005 - Volume 15 - Issue 5 - pp 299-304
Original Research

Objective: To evaluate the effect of a functional knee brace on nonoperated acute anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)-deficient patients.

Design: Prospective randomized clinical trial.

Setting: University clinic.

Patients: Ninety-five patients (18-50 years old) with an acute ACL tear were included in the present study. The subjects were randomized to either brace group, treated with functional bracing from the first testing session (<5 weeks postinjury) to 12 weeks postinjury or a control group, treated without bracing. The patients were followed for 6 months. Twenty-one subjects were excluded due to the following exclusion criteria: partial rupture or articular cartilage injury shown on MRI or with arthroscopy, or other injuries that negatively affected rehabilitation, or dropped out due to surgery (n = 22), or personal reasons (n = 10). Forty-two patients remained in the study, 22 in the brace group and 20 in the control group.

Outcome Measurements: Visual analogue scale, Knee Osteoarthritis Outcome Score, Cincinnati knee score, a brace evaluation form, and muscle peak torque.

Results: When using the brace the subjects in the brace group experienced less (P = 0.047) sense of instability, evaluated with visual analogue scale, than the control group. However, bracing had no effect on any of the variables in Knee Osteoarthritis Outcome Score or Cincinnati knee score and no effect on quadriceps or hamstring muscle peak torque. Subjectively, the brace group experienced a positive effect of the brace on rehabilitation.

Conclusions: Nonoperated acute ACL-deficient patients experienced a positive effect of the brace regarding sense of instability and rehabilitation. However, these findings were not supported by objective outcomes.

From the Section of Sports Medicine, Division of Surgical Sciences Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.

Received for publication July 2004; accepted June 2005.

Supported by a grant to Karolinska Institutet from the Bauerfeind Orthopaedic GmbH & Co. KG, Kempen, Germany.

Reprints: Linda R. Swirtun, RPT, Section of Sports Medicine, Karolinska Hospital, SE-171 76 Stockholm, Sweden (e-mail: linda.r.swirtun@kirurgi.ki.se).

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.