Randon Hall, MD
Should Wentz Wear ACL Brace?
Updated: Mar 31, 2020
Carson Wentz' return to the field was much anticipated by #Eagles fans everywhere. Reportedly his back and knee are feeling great. Much attention has been paid to his return without a knee brace to protect his surgically reconstructed ACL. In light of Carson Wentz’ return, it begs the question: should he play with the brace or not?
The topic of bracing after full recovery of an ACL reconstruction is a frequently debated and researched topic in the sports medicine world. The focal point of the discussion revolves around if functional ACL braces actually reduces the risk of re-injury? Before we take a look at the data let's look at the type of brace we are talking about. Carson was likely in a custom ACL brace that looks similar to the brace depicted. Basically, every major brace company makes this type of brace and for all intents and purposes they are pretty much the same at the high end.
Many studies have looked at this issue but here is the most recent reviews (comprehensive look at multiple studies) on the data on protective bracing after ACL reconstruction. Here are the most up-to-date review articles on the subject:
Functional Bracing After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction: A Systematic Review.
J Am Acad Orthop Surg. 2017 Mar;25(3):239-249. doi: 10.5435/JAAOS-D-15-00710.
Knee Bracing After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction.
Orthopedics. 2016 Jul 1;39(4):e602-9. doi: 10.3928/01477447-20160513-04.
Functional bracing of ACL injuries: current state and future directions.
Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2014 May;22(5):1131-41.doi: 10.1007/s00167-013-2514z
Each study is linked to the full abstract so you can read for yourselves. However, in summary, these studies show that the use of the functional bracing to reduce the risk of the injury after ACL reconstruction is either inconclusive or not supported by the research. On the other hand, there is data to suggest braces can alter and protect against certain movements. However, if solely correcting or altering body movements with a brace reduces the risk of re-injury is not clear. Therefore what we are left with is exactly what Carson Wentz stated in his recent press conference. It is up to the athlete as to whether they want to participate with the brace or not. At this point it sounds like not, for now at least.