Off The Shelf vs. Custom Knee Brace

How does a custom knee brace differ from an off the shelf brace?

To answer this question we will examine 2 braces from the same company that both provide support for an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury.

1) Donjoy Fullforce: off the shelf non custom knee brace

2) Donjoy Defiance III: custom knee brace

Learn more about our custom knee braces!

Custom Knee Braces

How are measurements made to determine the size?

1. Fullforce (off the shelf ACL knee brace):

  • Three circumference measurements are taken, 1) 6 inches above mid knee cap, 2) at mid knee cap, 3) 6 inches below mid knee cap. When measuring the knee joint, there is no knee width measurement, only a knee joint circumference measurement is taken. This is not as accurate because the brace does not fit the knee joint with a strap-based system.
  • There are 7 standard sizes based on these three measurements that a patient will fit into from Xsmall to XXXlarge. As you can see from the diagram
  • The sizes in each category are a range of measurements, for example, small thigh circumference is a range from 15.5” – 18.5”.
  • A patient may fit as a small calf and medium thigh because they have larger thigh muscles. In these cases a “best fit” category is selected and will vary by the individual who is measuring.
  • An off-the-shelf brace measures the individual to an already created brace, and matches the two.

2. Defiance III (custom ACL knee brace):

  • Donjoy uses the custom contour measuring instrument (CCMI Mark III) for their specific measurements. This device takes into account 14 different anatomical reference points from a patient’s leg to create a much more accurate fitting knee brace.
  • Measurements taken are extremely accurate, measured to the millimeter.
  • Many measurement are used: thigh and calf circumference, thigh and calve contour, knee width and thigh to shin angles (varus and valgus).
  • By measuring knee width instead of knee joint circumference a much more accurate measurement is captured because it simulates the way the brace will fit on an individual.
  • A custom brace fits the brace to the unique measurements of the individual, with no two braces being the same.

What do these braces look like?

1. Fullforce (off the shelf ACL knee brace): similar initial appearance as the Donjoy Defiance custom knee brace, especially for the untrained individual. But at a closer look, there are several differences:

  • It is completely straight when looking at it from the front. This does not capture the thigh to shin knee joint angle. This is what we know as “knock knees” or “bow legged”.
  • The thigh frame is linear. This increases the chance that the inner frame may pinch the groin, especially for shorter individuals.
  • Off the shelf braces often come with a small selection of colors because of their prefabrication. The Donjoy Fullforce off-the-shelf brace comes in only one color.

2. Defiance III (custom ACL knee brace):

  • When looking at these braces from the front view a noticeable angle is seen between the upper and lower part of the brace. Donjoy Defiance measures what we know as “knock knees” or “bow legs”. This is the knee joint angle between the thigh and shin bones known as varus and valgus. It is very rare to have a 0 degree joint angle between these bones, which is what a standard off-the-shelf ACL brace is made to have.
  • The thigh frame has the option of a “swooping thigh”. This prevents any groin pinching from the upper thigh frame because it curves down versus the more linear frame seen on an off-the-shelf knee brace.
  • Custom knee braces often come with more unique colors and other accessories such as stronger buckles, added padding, calf guards etc. The Donjoy Defiance III has over 25 of colors and graphic options.

To summarize, custom knee braces use a much more detailed system of measurements to create a perfect fitting brace when compared with an off-the-shelf knee brace. As a result, having a professional with the proper experience and knowledge to measure and fit these braces is equally important as selecting the right brace. In doing so, your risk of further knee damage and injury will be greatly reduced. Custom knee braces have added features such as more color selection, frame alterations for comfort, added padding and stronger buckles to name a few. If you are looking for the best for your ligament or cartilage knee injury, a custom knee brace, properly measured is the only way to go.

Get measured for your custom knee brace today!

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