What is the best knee support for skiing?
After ‘retiring’ in Vail, Opedix founder Kim Gustafson developed an interest in compression garments to protect joints and reduce fatigue. He sent me a pair, and I am a believer. Our conversation follows.
1. My friend Steve tells me I don’t have a bad knee – I have a good knee that gets a little sore. So what is the idea behind your orthopedic knee support tights? Are they the best knee support for skiing?
The knee is a joint that is subject to degeneration through everyday “wear and tear.” If a person is involved where the knee joint is used excessively, like skiing, the degeneration occurs at a more rapid pace. There is an expression which I have found to be quite accurate, “It’s not if but when a person starts to experience knee issues, specifically, knee pain.” The Opedix tights reduce the “load” (wear and tear) on one’s knees, whatever the condition of the knee. If one can preserve the knee joint even when it is “healthy,” why wouldn’t someone take that preventative measure? Our tights are actually a “soft knee brace” build into a compression base layer.
2. Opedix claims to reduce quad fatigue, destructive knee forces, and knee pain. I was skeptical until I read your research. Can you summarize why it’s the best knee support for skiing?
The best summary I can give you is a copy of an independently conducted test by Michael Decker, Ph.D., research scientist at the University of Denver’s biomechanics laboratory at the University of Denver. The data was put together in a “scientific white paper,” available on request. [ Summary at the bottom of this post]
3. Who did you test, skiers who want the best knee brace for skiing? What did you learn?
This test involved 325 Vail Resorts and Aspen ski instructors, borders and patrollers. Salient points: “Knee pain, stiffness, and quadriceps fatigue have reduced an average of 28%.”[They way they ski, I don’t think ski instructors get fatigued…..]
Fatigue and injury are directly related. Not everyone experiences knee pain but everyone experiences quad fatigue, especially when skiing powder.
5. Dr. Steadman of Vail may be the most famous knee doc. What was his involvement creating the best knee support for skiing?
Dr. Steadman has performed surgery on my left knee five times, got to know him better than planned. There are two components to the Steadman group; 1) The Steadman Clinic which is comprised of the orthopedic medical doctors, including Dr. Steadman and
2) The Steadman Philippon Research Institute, this is a nonprofit orthopedic research laboratory make up of several top scientific research Ph.D.’s. The Opedix tights were developed by myself and several of these Ph.D.s. Dr. Steadman had no direct involvement with the development of our tights but has been a great supporter of the product. [pun intended?]
6. How about Wayne Wong? Does he use a knee compression sleeve for skiing?
Just skied with Wayne a half day last Spring here in Vail. He says he has no knee pain, unbelievable, but says he wears our tights to reduce quad fatigue. His legs feel better and stronger at the end of a day of skiing and allow him to start the next day with his legs in better physical condition.
The design reminds me of the kinesiology tape used by beach volleyball players in the Olympics. [I only watched for medical purposes]
7. Would you call Opedix knee compression sleeve a knee brace for skiing light?
Our tights are actually a “soft brace” built into a compression base layer. When studied using “motion analysis” equipment in The Steadman Philippon Research Institute’s laboratory, the tests showed the tights unload the knees by 17%; a traditional hard brace unloads the knees around 30% and that’s if one is wearing the brace. So, your designation of “Knee-brace light” is accurate.
8. When I put them on, I realize the reinforce the IT band, that I always hear about during a massage…as in ‘your IT band is tight’. I also notice that the area directly over the knee is not applying pressure, for which my chondromalacia patella thanks you. So how does it keep my knee cap tracking without direct manipulation of a knee compression sleve for skiing?
Restricting the movement of a healthy knee (patella) is not good. Our tights do not restrict the knee; the nonstretch banding that starts at the hip, goes around the patella and supports both the lateral and medial side of the knee and ends at the ankle is what is keeping your knee cap tracking as well as providing the “unloading” component.
9. I am a believer. I just tried them heliskiing, and I think it’s the best knee support for skiing! They feel more solid and stable than a knee brace for skiing.
This video is a good overview. [Kinda scary opening shot…I guess fear sells.]
10. They aren’t the cheapest knee brace for skiing, eh?
Some people compare our tights to other compression tights which cost a lot less. However, our tights provide “soft bracing” as discussed earlier. Sewing a nonstretch banding onto a four-way stretch material is labor intensive and can’t be totally automated on some type of sewing machine. No one really cares but we have been at this for a good six years, starting from a concept to a finished product and have spent a lot of time and money getting there.
We have several non solicited comments come back to us from skiers that say their knee pain has been substantially reduced or eliminated and they can ski longer days and enjoy those special days on the mountain more, that is more than worth $190.00.
11. How does your knee compression sleeve for skiing protect muscles?
Scientific research has shown that compression garments (CG) protects muscles and can delay fatigue by:
- Increasing arterial blood flow to the muscles
- Increasing venous blood flow from the muscles
- Attenuating blood lactate levels
- Reducing muscle vibration
- Reducing the rise in core temperature during activity
12. How does the knee support sleeve for skiing protect joints, especially my knees?!
Research performed with this technology has found:
- Enhanced knee performance
- Enhanced knee alignment
- Reduced knee joint loading
- Reduced knee pain and stiffness
- Reduced rates of fatigue
13. WOW, how is it on stains? [ Kidding, a line from Outlaw Josey Wales.] Clint Eastwood might also like the best knee support for skiing…
14. Where can heliskiers get Opedix knee sleeves for skiing?
At the Opedix web site
15. What else would you like our heliskiers to know about Opedix, the best knee support for skiing?
Unlike so many companies who really don’t want to get into the “science” of their products and/or how they back up their product claims, we enjoy the opportunity to discuss these issues. If you have any further questions or need any clarification on any points, please contact me.
Our product testing is done at two orthopedic research laboratories, The Steadman Philippon Research Institute, and the biomechanics laboratory at The University of Denver. Both of these research labs are independent and not affiliated with any company.
I appreciate your interest in our products and the science behind them. You may also enjoy this video.