Why Football Teams are Requiring Players Wear Knee Braces

Cowboys Player Practice in Knee BracesLast 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.

A Cyclist’s Thoughts on Compression Socks

Racing in Worcester

By Jon O. (a BrightLife Customer)

I recently tried out a few different brands of compression socks and sleeves and wanted to share my thoughts with the world.

I cycle competitively as a CAT 4 cyclist (amateur racer).  I race most weekends and train intensively for 8-12 hours per week.  Recovery is a key aspect to improving. Unfortunately, just recovering well is more involved than I would have imagined before I got into the sport a few years back.  Stretching, foam rolling, elevating, and –when I’m really cooked–icing are all things needed to ease the legs back to life after long hard rides.  I know the price of not doing these things:  two years ago I over trained and was off the bike for 8 months with hamstring tendonitis.

Needless to say it’s tough to be diligent with these routines especially as a full time teacher who takes grad school classes.  Often when getting back from a ride I have to get back on my feet and get to work.   Compression tights have been a way to give my legs a little extra TLC without sacrificing additional time.  There is reasonable research and anecdotal evidence to justify their use.  I also have a varicose vein on my right leg that is the size of a python, so even if I didn’t bike, I know I should be wearing compression socks.

In the past, I have used full leg medical thigh highs. They were expensive and not very comfortable.  I opted for the black versions which were slightly less creepy than the “skin” color pair, but still make me feel like Tim Curry in Rocky Horror when I put them on.  These have a tendency to slip down when I walk in them – when I cover them with pants, they’re not easily adjusted and become uncomfortable quickly. I could have opted for full bottomed tights instead of legs, but after 4 hours in bike shorts the last thing I want to do is smother my undercarriage. Needless to say, I don’t wear these as often as I should.

So, it was nice to get two pairs of knee high style compression socks recently – CEP Progressive+ Socks and Allegro Rumba Calf Sleeves.  I’ve heard that one doesn’t really need full length compressors anyway:  just to the knee is where it matters for athletic recovery.

The CEP product is a very cool looking sock with an aggressive design.  Call me insecure but looks do matter here:  I want to feel like an athlete when I hit the supermarket: not a dude in pantyhose. They came well packaged in a stylish neon box with instructions about how to roll them on properly. These are the first socks I’ve had that are foot specific. I think there is a reason for this:  It seems they’ve varied the density of the knit to help fit securely, breathe well and be reinforced for regular wear. Time will tell how tough these guys are; I think they are my new go-to sock.  I’ll probably buy a couple pairs so that I can wear them regularly.

The Rumba calf compressors are nylon bands which stretch from the ankle to the knee leaving the foot exposed. Once again, we’re back to the pantyhose look: just nylon with no cool logo. But, these can easily be worn under pants because they’re thin. They are also very small, so they are easy to put in a pocket on the way to a race, and I can wear them on the way home. Only challenge: because they are small and black they are just the type of thing to disappear in the laundry. Or get confused with my wife’s stockings and wind up in her dresser.

Both the Rumba and the CEP are snug, but not super tight.  They’re comfortable enough that I don’t notice either after a few hours of wear and they do help with muscle recovery.

Overall – I’m excited to have more options for recovery after my races. If you’re looking for something manly enough to wear to the supermarket with shorts, I recommend CEP.

Who makes Therafirm, SmartKnit, EASE and Core-Spun?

In the first of our “Meet The Manufacturers” Series we talk with Evan McGill, National Sales Manager for Knit-Rite, Inc.  Knit-Rite owns some of the better known brands in the compression hosiery industry such as Therafirm, SmartKnit, EASE, and Core-Spun, sold on BrightLifeDirect.com, plus Preggers and GoGo sold on BrightLifeGo.com.  When BrightLife Direct was founded in 1999, Therafirm was the first and only brand that we sold.  Both companies have enjoyed rapid growth in the following 15 years.

When and where did the company begin?  

Knit-Rite opened in 1923 in Kansas City, KS, where our corporate headquarters is still based. Knit-Rite was founded by a WWI amputee manufacturing prosthetic socks for amputees. Knit-Rite purchased THERAFIRM in September 2000.

How many people work at Knit Rite?

Right now we employ about 170 people. About half of them work in Kansas City, KS and half work at our THERAFIRM plant in Hamlet, NC. We also have 4 field based sales reps.

Where are your products manufactured?

Our Knit-Rite orthotic and prosthetic products are manufactured in Kansas City, KS and our THERAFIRM compression products are manufactured in Hamlet, NC. Yes, our products are 100% made in the USA!

What’s your best selling product?

Core-Spun has built the biggest notoriety for the company. This is available in a knee high and now a thigh high as well. Many individuals struggle with putting their support hosiery on every day. Core-Spun, a patented innovation by THERAFIRM, solves this issue with the use of stretchy Core-Spun yarns for a sock that is ultra stretchy and therefore easier to put on. Core-Spun yarns are made by twisting fibers around an inner fiber, creating one yarn. This process is used to enhance stretch comfort, strength, and durability. Core-Spun consists of spandex as the “core yarn” with polyester yarns as the “sheath” of twisted yarns around the core. The result is a support sock that is ultra stretchy, easier to put on, and more comfortable to wear. This product is VERY popular!

What’s your hottest new product?

EASE is our hottest new product and we have received great feedback from patients thus far.  EASE is a premium opaque gradient compression line that complements the patented Core-Spun compression socks—both engineered using ultra stretchy yarns for compression garments that are easier to put on and more comfortable to wear. It is made of high stretch, moisture wicking CoolMax fibers and provides dry comfortable coolness. It delivers lab tested true gradient compression to promote better blood flow, prevent mild to moderate swelling, and relieve tired, achy legs and feet.

Besides compression stockings, what else does Knit Rite make?

Knit-Rite’s core business is manufacturing textiles for the orthotic and prosthetic community, which is artificial limbs and braces. We more or less make any textile that could fall into that category including prosthetic socks, shrinkers, various product interfaces, etc.

Has Knit Rite ever made a product that bombed?

Of course not! We’re perfect! 🙂 In all seriousness, we initially launched Core-Spun with one sizing chart, but made adjustments to it after its launch to better fit the modern day population.  Ankle to calf ratio is so important to properly fitting a compression product, so those adjustments were made to accommodate that.

Have you noticed any trends in compression stocking colors?

People want compression to look like any other sock, tight, etc. they would wear. As a society, we are very fashionable and enjoy fashionable colors. With that said, we are seeing trends for various colors outside the normal black, beige, etc.. Our THERAFIRM Light line (10-15mmHg) comes out with seasonal colors 2 times per year. Right now, we have THERAFIRM Light opaque footless tights available in a handful of seasonal colors including Boho Pink and Geranium for Summer 2014!

For athletic wear, what do you sell more of – socks or sleeves?

We actually sell more socks. We make our Core-Sport line in socks, leg sleeves AND arm sleeves. Athletic socks are ideal for your runner and biker. For someone who does triathlons, they tend to prefer leg sleeves because they can wear them during the swim, bike and run portions. Core-Sport has Core-Spun yarns in them, so it will dry quickly, making it ideal for any type of athlete during performance or during recovery.

You travel a lot as a sales manager, what’s your favorite travel sock?

For me, I prefer Core-Spun the most. I wear dress shoes almost daily, so not only is that sock easy to get on and comfortable to wear, but its very comfortable for me in dress shoes. It’s not too thick and not too thin, so it works well for me.

What’s the biggest hurdle or obstacle to getting someone to try compression socks for the first time?

The misconception amongst many people is that compression socks are ugly, hot, hard to get on, and not fashionable. Compression has very much evolved over the years. Products like Core-Spun and EASE are easy to get on, are comfortable to wear and are offered in a wide array of colors. Once someone, whether it’s someone who needs compression for medical reasons OR someone who just wants to energize their legs, understands the benefits of compression and gets the standards “myths” debunked, they are usually very open to trying it and making their legs feel better.