This study examined the effects of (a) functional knee braces on thigh muscle EMG and (b) physical activity and leg shape on knee brace migration. Ten female college ice hockey players were fitted with a strap-secured functional knee brace (SSB) and a hard-shell functional knee brace with strapping. Participants performed a side-step maneuver, a treadmill ran, and an obstacle course. Significant differences were noted in hamstring and quadriceps EMG median frequency (mfEMG) while wearing the SSB compared with the control condition. Significant downward shifts were noted in hamstring mfEMG for both braces when compared with the control condition. There was greater brace migration for the obstacle course for both brace types. No relation was found between leg shape and the amount of migration. This study suggests that custom-fitted functional knee braces alter the motor unit recruitment patterns of the thigh musculature during physical activity and that they do not migrate significantly during physical activity.
John P. Miller, Ronald V. Croce, and Kerriann Catlaw are with the Department of Kinesiology, University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824. James C. Vailas and Robert Confessore are with the New Hampshire Musculoskeletal Institute, Manchester, NH 03102.