If you’ve recently hurt your kneecap, or been to A&E for a knee injury, you may have had your first encounter with a “cricket pad splint”.
This large rectangle of fabric – so-named because it looks, well, a lot like the paraphernalia worn by batsmen and wicket keepers in cricket – is a pretty common type of post-injury knee brace.
So how exactly does it work, and how long might you have to wear one? Here’s a summary guide.
What is a cricket pad splint?
A cricket pad splint is just the generic name for a type of immobiliser brace. This means its main function is to keep your knee steady and prevent it from moving around after an injury. Cricket pad splints are made by a wide range of manufacturers, such as Breg and DonJoy, and are widely used across the NHS for acute knee injuries and conditions.
How does it differ from other braces?
If you google “knee brace”, you’ll quickly see there are many, many different types out there, each with its own purposes and use cases. We tend to group them like this:
Immobilisers – such as the cricket pad splint
Material braces – stretchy fabric sleeves that provide general support and gentle compression
Hinged – sleeves or bulkier supports that protect against side-to-side movement
Unloader – braces that shift weight from one part of the knee joint to another
Patellofemoral – for knee support that’s focused on the patella (kneecap)
ACL / PCL – for specific ligament problems, either after an injury or after surgical repair
How does it work?
As mentioned, you’ll usually be given a cricket pad splint to protect your knee following an injury, for example if you’ve fractured your knee, or as part of a recovery programme after reconstructive surgery. The main aim is to support your knee as you rest, wait for any swelling to subside, and encourage the healing process. Like other types of splints, it fixes your leg “in extension” – in other words, keeps it straight and stops you from bending your knee, or causing further damage by twisting and rolling it.
How is it fitted?
A doctor, nurse or plaster technician will normally fit your splint on first use. Once they’ve unrolled the fabric and laid it flat on a stretcher bed, your leg will be gently placed on top. They then bring the two sides together (the wider side goes around the top of the thigh) so the panels almost meet but don’t overlap. The pad will normally have six straps, three above and three below the knee, with a window over your kneecap. The straps pass across your leg, through a loop, and back again to a patch of Velcro.
What happens next?
At first fitting, the medic will check your pad is sitting securely on your leg. It should be firm enough so it doesn’t slip down when you stand, yet not uncomfortably tight; you should be able to place a fingertip under the straps. They’ll then tell you how long you’ll need to wear it (see below) and how to use it. In most cases, you should be fine to remove your pad so long as your affected knee is being supported. This will allow you to ice your knee, and to clean your leg over the next few days (a flannel or wet wipe works well, but make sure the skin is dry before you refit the straps). You should also check for any red areas, and don’t ignore skin irritation, tingling, numbness or increased pain. If any of these things do occur, you should see a doctor for advice.
How long do you have to wear the pad?
This really depends on your specific condition or injury. But a key thing to understand about cricket pad splints is that they are really for short-term use only. If left on too long, the knee can stiffen up and the muscles in your leg will begin to weaken and waste. So in most cases we’ll advise you to wear one for 1-2 weeks. You’ll then be asked to remove the pad yourself, or come in for a clinic appointment to assess your knee and decide on the next steps. We may also recommend you see a physio, who will be able to help you with exercises to rebuild your muscle strength – and of course help you to recover from the injury.
Interested in reading on? You might find these articles helpful
The 60-second guide to Knee Braces
Joint 101: a beginner’s guide to the knee
A brief guide to knee fractures
Do you need help with knee pain or a persistent injury? We’re always here to help. Just make a booking on the website, or call us on 01962 826107 to speak to a member of the team and arrange an appointment. We’ll make sure you’re seen, examined and treated as soon as possible.