Knee pads are a form of protective gear that you wear over the knees to protect them from possible traumatic impacts with the ground. They also help to protect against the long term adverse impact of bearing the weight of your body on your knees, as can happen when working in a confined space.
Benefits Of Wearing Knee Pads
Knee pads can be beneficial to individuals in many walks of life. Below, we will examine the advantages they offer to four key groups – athletes, workers, military personnel and gardeners.
Athletes in many sports face the risk of falls or collisions with other players that may cause traumatic knee injury.
The sports in which this risk is most significant tend to be contact sports such as hockey, basketball or football. In addition to the frequent inter player contact that is an innate part of these sports, athletes frequently have to jump, change direction or stop abruptly while running or skating at high speed. This increases the risk of falling awkwardly and (inadvertently in many cases) using a knee to break the impact of the fall
However, knee pads can also provide valuable protection in non contact sports such as cycling, skateboarding, wrestling and even volleyball. These all present a high risk of falling to the ground in an uncontrolled manner. In any of these sports, a traumatic impact to the knees as a result of a fall can result in serious knee injuries up to and including bone fractures.
Athletes can also experience turf burns when participating in sports that present a high risk of falling. Knee pads provide valuable protection against such injuries also.
Workers in many occupations are required to work in confined spaces for extended periods. Examples are painters or construction workers. Other workers are required to spend long periods in a kneeling position; these include people employed in the tiling or roofing industries.
Without adequate knee protection, spending long periods in a kneeling position can cause irritation to the bursae of the knee. The result can be inflammation of those bursae, a condition that can then lead to knee bursitis.
Another adverse effect of long periods spent kneeling can be wear ann tear of the cartilage covering the knee bones. This can in turn lead to knee osteoarthritis, a long term wear and tear condition with no underlying cure.
Knee pads can cushion the knee against the full body weight and reduce the risk of knee injuries like bursitis even after extended kneeling.
Soldiers in combat situations may be forced to spend long periods in crouched or kneeling positions. This can give rise to knee bursitis in just the same way we have described above for workers in industries like roofing or tiling.
As a result, knee pad use has become widespread among combat soldiers as their protective benefits become better known.
In addition to the occupations and sports mentioned above, knee pads can be a valuable accessory for injury prevention while gardening.
As illustrated in the feature photo to this page, gardening sometimes requires spending extensive periods in crouched or kneeling positions. Using knee pads during these periods can be an effective technique to ward off the risk of knee bursitis, osteoarthritis or other wear and tear knee injuries.
Are Knee Pads Effective At Preventing Injury?
We will now take a brief look at two of the larest studies in recent years into the effectiveness of knee pads in preventing knee injuries.
The NEJM reported that the data showed a higher risk of injury among those not wearing knee pads compared to those who were. Specifically, the crude odds ratio for those not wearing pads compared to the remainder who were was 2.2. This meant that the proportion of those not wearing knee pads who suffered knee injuries compared to the corresponding proportion among those who were was 2.2 times higher.
However, the 95% confidence interval for the same odds ratio extended from 0.7 to 7.2. This meant that the possibility that the odds ratio was less than 1 could not be excluded with a probability of 95% or more.
Hence, the study provided no conclusive or statistically significant evidence that the use of knee pads reduced the risk of suffering a knee injury among skaters.
2019 Nature Study
Another study was published by Nature magazine in 2019 on a related subject. This study examined the traumatic injuries to eight cadaveric human knee specimens after suffering blows consistent with a fall. Cadaveric specimens were used to avoid exposing live subjects to the possibility of serious knee injuries, including fractures, as a result of the study.
This study reported a 56% reduction in the incidence of knee injuries when a knee pad was used compared to those situations when it was not. The study therefore concluded, among other things, that knee pads were effective in reducing the risk of major traumatic knee injuries , including fractures, as a result of a fall.
Should Knee Pads be Worn At Night?
In general, we would suggest wearing knee pads only when you are at risk of falling and experiencing knee trauma. You should also wear them when you are performing a task that causes your knees to experience wear and tear.
Excessive wear of knee pads can restrict blood circulation. They can also cause the knee muscles and ligaments to atrophy. That can in turn increase the risk of knee sprains and strains in the future.
As a result, we would advise against wearing knee pads at night or in bed, unless of course you are advised by a physician to do other wise.