How a Soccer Knee Guard Can Reduce Scrapes, Bruises and Tears

Sep 21, 2023

If your knees are strong, they can withstand vertical forces nearly seven times your bodyweight, a number that exceeds most soccer maneuvers. But they’re still delicate. The beautiful game puts mileage on knees, and injuries ranging from bruises to ACL tears can strike if you’re not conditioned or protected. 

But there’s a piece of equipment that can keep you safe and standing—a knee guard. It’s an overlooked form of soccer gear that can minimize the risk of knee injuries on the pitch. Read on and to learn how it does that.  

Why the Knees Can Be a Weak Link 

Although your knees can absorb a ridiculously high amount of vertical forces, they can tolerate far less horizontal and rotational pressure. Your knee joints consist of three merging bones—the femur (thigh bone), the tibia (shin) and the patella (kneecap). They’re stacked and aligned vertically, and are supported by your quads which act as shock-absorbers. That’s why jumping movements cause no issues. The exception to this is when the knees and surrounding tissues are in poor shape.

However, the knees are not as-well suited for horizontal and rotational forces. The ligaments sort of lock the knees in place to prevent too much side-to-side and twisting movement, and for good reason too. Think about it. If our knees could easily move at these angles, running and even walking would be dangerous, because we would lack the balance and stability to do them. 

They can tolerate some horizontal and rotational movement, but only up to a certain point. And that's why excessive amounts of these forces lead to knee injuries. Of course, a lot of soccer movements cause the knee to shift and twist unnaturally, such as: 

  • Rapid movements such as cutting, pivoting which cause excessive rotation
  • Joint shifting (deceleration, acceleration, excessive knee valgus)
  • Contact (tackling, sliding, player-to-player collisions) 

Of course, let’s not forget what can happen at the cutaneous level too. Sliding on the pitch, especially on artificial turf, is the perfect surface to cut and tear the skin, including the knees. Also, blows from accidental kicks can do some damage to the skin and muscles as well. 

Common Injuries Associated with Soccer Movements 

  • ACL injuries—A major villain to all soccer players, ACL injuries happen due to a combination of excessive horizontal and rotational forces. 
  • Muscle strains and sprains—Instability of the knee joint can easily pull and tear muscles. 
  • Bruises and contusions—An accidental kick to the knee hurts like heck, and will leave behind bruises. In rare cases, a hematoma might develop. 
  • Turf burn—A knee slide—and we don’t mean the celebratory ones after scoring a goal—can cut the skin and cause painful turf burn injuries.

Advantages of a Knee Guard

How do knee guards prevent all that chaos? They do so in three parts. First, they add stability to the knee joint, supporting it’s natural position so that it doesn’t shift or rotate excessively. Second, it absorbs impact forces, such as those caused by kicks or falls directly on the kneecap itself. Third, the material shields exposed skin from abrasive turf. 

One study in particular supports our second point on force reduction. It found that when athletes wore knee protection, it reduced the peak forces placed on the quads during certain walking phases. Also, the soleus muscles exerted less peak force. That meant that there was less stress on the muscles, joints and ligaments, translating to a lower risk of ACL injury (and re-injury). 

Our Storelli Knee Guard excels at impact reduction. We fitted it with 10mm of padding, which can absorb 90% of forces that would overload your leg muscles. 

It also comes with additional features such as anti-abrasion material that can withstand the friction of sliding. That means no turf burn and other cuts. 

Considerations When Using a Knee Guard

Let’s make one thing clear here—a knee guard can’t prevent injuries. And even though it can reduce the forces that cause ACL injuries, you can’t rely on a knee guard alone. The knee and surrounding tissues (muscles, ligaments) need to have a healthy baseline level of strength to withstand these forces. 

That’s where conditioning comes in. All players, but especially injury-prone and women (due to anatomical differences), need to focus on building lower leg strength. A great set of exercises to strengthen the knee joint are the FIFA 11+ neuromuscular workouts. They improve neural activity and muscle-firing patterns so that you move more efficiently and with less strain on your body. Also, exercises such as nordic hamstring curls can improve muscle architecture so your knee remains stable under strenuous movements. 

And of course, don’t forget to practice movements like cutting to refine your technique. Start slowly, making sure you’re lifting your feet off the ground and shifting your body in a controlled fashion. 

A combination of conditioning, technique refinement, and a knee guard is the key to significantly escaping lower leg injuries. 

Looking to protect your knees and reduce your risk of leg injuries? Check out our BodyShield knee guards to learn how they can do so. 

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