Picking out the best knee brace for a BJJ (or MMA) fighter is going to make a huge difference on the fighter’s quality of life.
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) has grown into a worldwide phenomenon in the last few decades. With the success of the UFC and other mixed martial arts fighting leagues propelling its popularity, millions of people worldwide are experiencing the mental and physical benefits of learning the art of BJJ.
If you train BJJ for a significant length of time, you’re going to become familiar with joint pain – knees especially. You need to think about how you’re going to protect your joints, and a knee brace is one must-have in your BJJ gear bag.
Read on to learn how to pick out the best knee brace for BJJ, and a few of our top picks.
What to Look for in Knee Protection for BJJ
The most important factors to consider when searching for the best knee brace for BJJ are material composition and quality, because those will determine the brace’s overall durability and breathability. Braces are composed of a variety of material including foam, spandex, Lycra, and neoprene.
BJJ is a rough sport, so you need a brace that will stand up to the repetitive stress and stretching that accompany it. BJJ is also a very physically intense sport that generates great heat and leaves participants drenched in sweat. If you plan on continuing your training while wearing a brace and your knee brace does not breathe, you risk developing a rash or friction burn.
Different Types of Knee Braces
Which brace is right for you depends on what level of protection you require. Knee braces are rated on a scale of protection that ranges from Level 1 to Level 3+.
Level 1 braces, also known as Primary braces, are the most flexible and least restrictive braces. They are best for:
- Minor aches
- Minor sprains
- Joint inflammation like mild arthritis, tendinitis, and bursitis
Level 2 braces, also known as Advanced braces, are less flexible than Level 1 but offer greater protection. Knee braces that completely wrap around the joint are a good example. They are best for:
- Moderate ligament weakness or instability
- Moderate or chronic joint inflammation
- Moderate sprain rehabilitation
Level 3 braces, also known as Maximum braces, are the most restrictive but also offer the highest level of support. Generally containing metal hinges, they are best for:
- Moderate to severe joint and ligament instability
- Post-surgical joint care
- Prophylactic joint protection
Level 3+ braces, also known as Maximum+ braces, provide the absolute highest level of stability and are best for:
- Severe joint instability
- Post-surgical joint care
- As part of a physical therapy process
If you are unsure what level you require, consult with a physical therapist or sports medicine professional. In general, only Level 1 and 2 are designed to be worn while training.
Below are some of the best knee braces currently on the market for BJJ.
Best Knee Braces and Knee Sleeves for BJJ Athletes
Shock Doctor’s Knee Support Sleeve
The Shock Doctor’s Knee Support Sleeve is rated for Level 2 protection, so it is suitable for most mild and moderate injuries your knee will incur during BJJ. The main benefit for your joint is compression. Compression helps with joint and ligament stability. The level of compression the Shock Doctor offers also helps keep the muscle warm, which reduces discomfort and helps promote healing.
Composed of elastic knit neoprene, this brace is designed to bind tightly to your knee and keep excess moisture out. Because it is knit neoprene, it is also breathable. This is important if you plan on wearing it while still practicing BJJ.
The Shock Doctor also boasts integrated gel inlays around the knee cap. These will help cushion and protect your knee. If you want a brace that you can wear to keep you in the game while you have a minor sprain or inflammation, The Shock Doctor is a good fit.
McDavid Knee Compression Sleeve
Rated at Level 1, the McDavid Knee Compression Sleeve is a brace that can be worn throughout the day and is suitable for mild knee swelling and pain. The compression offered with this brace will help stabilize injured joints and promote healing.
Also composed of elastic knit neoprene with a five-needle stitch, this brace will repel sweat and oil while still allowing your joint to breathe.
This is a very compact, light-weight brace that will fit comfortably under a BJJ gi. It can also be worn throughout the day during all manner of other activities as it is very flexible and will not inhibit your mobility.
Bauerfeind Sports Knee Support
The Bauerfeind Sports Knee Support is a Level 2 brace that can also be worn during most activities. It contains a contoured insert that encircles your kneecap that helps massage the muscles and joints while you move, which increases blood flow and promotes healing.
Made in Germany from 3D air knit fabric, this is a lightweight and durable brace. It will fit comfortably into most BJJ training and rehabilitation programs.
NEVERTAP Best Knee Guard for BJJ, MMA and Grappling
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As its name implies, the NEVERTAP Best Knee Guard for BJJ, MMA and Grappling is a Level 2 brace that was specifically made for BJJ and similar sports. Designed to be worn during training, this can be used to either protect and unstable knee or as a preventative tool to stave off future joint injury.
This brace boasts military-grade nylon springs on either edge of the knee guard which helps train proper knee flexion. Its fiber knee padding also helps protect your ligaments and joints while training.
UFlex Athletics Knee Compression Sleeve
A Level 1 brace, the UFlex Athletics Knee Compression Sleeve is another light-weight option for mild inflammation relief. Like all compression braces, it keeps your muscles stable and warm, prompting blood flow and healing.
Composed of anti-slip silicon, this brace will help provide you stability while grappling on a slippery mat. Available in a variety of sizes, you are sure to find the correct fit for you.
Venum Kontact Lycra/Gel Knee Pads
The Venum Kontact Lycra/Gel Knee Pads are Level 2 braces that are unique in their 360 degree, wrap-around support. Instead of a simple knee pad, this brace contains a cushion that encircles the knee, providing support all around the joint.
This brace is made of terry-loop fabric with small air holes, so it is both comfortable and breathable. Designed to be worn during BJJ and other high impact sports, this brace provides total knee support.
POWERLIX Knee Compression Sleeve
The POWERLIX Knee Compression Sleeve is a Level 2 sleeve that is designed to be worn either at rest or during workouts.
It is highly breathable and composed of specialty knitted fabric. This brace also contains an internal anti-slip silicon wave, so it will stay in place during training and will not require much adjustment.
CAMBIVO 2 Pack Knee Brace
The CAMBIVO 2 Pack Knee Brace is a Level 2 brace that is designed to help rehab ACL and meniscus tears. However, it can also be worn during BJJ training and other high-impact activities to help protect joints and prevent future injury.
This brace is a blend of 65% nylon, 20% latex, 15% spandex, so it is light, flexible, and breathable. It also contains anti-slip silicone, so it is designed to stay in place during high-intensity activities.
Knee Braces for BJJ – In Summary
Choosing the best knee brace for BJJ depends on what type of stability and protection you are looking for. A brace worn to prevent injury is going to function differently than a brace worn to help rehabilitation after surgery. All the braces on this list can fit comfortably in a BJJ lifestyle, so in the end the choice is yours.