Why Offensive Linemen Wear Knee Braces & Elbow Sleeves

Written By: Chris Haddad
Updated: February 12, 2024

College and NFL linemen can often be seen wearing a heavy knee brace on both of their knees. This football knee brace is similar to what an athlete would wear if they tore their ACL.

Offensive linemen wear knee braces to protect the ligaments in their knees and prevent season-ending injuries. Metal knee braces help protect and stabilize the knees from injuries.

This article will describe why wearing a football knee brace is beneficial for the offensive lineman and why it becomes a necessity for longevity and long-term health at a higher level.

Why Offensive Linemen Wear Knee Braces

Offensive linemen are often seen wearing knee braces on both knees to protect themselves from being rolled upon. When blocking another defender, usually, you have no spatial awareness of what’s happening on either side and behind you.

Offensive linemen are often so focused on blocking the man in front of them; that they position their bodies in a way that benefits blocking the defender, not bracing for a fall.

ACL Knee braces

Getting Rolled On By Other Linemen

Often, defensive and offensive linemen fall down either due to overpowering, tripping, or just pure clumsiness. Because offensive linemen work in tight spaces, when someone falls to the ground, there’s a perfect chance he’s not falling just on the ground.

When an offensive lineman or a defensive lineman fall, they typically fall on their backs or sides in a rolling motion. Unfortunately, and we see it happen too often, the person they’re landing on is an offensive lineman’s leg. We call this “getting rolled up on.”

Foot, ankle, and even worse knee injuries are common outcomes of getting rolled up on.

These knee braces provide ACL knee support and knee joint support. To limit ligament injury and prevent football injuries, these knee braces have proven to be effective.

Falling Down

Pancake blocks are often an outcome of an offensive player overpowering a defensive player and out-leveraging them. As they’re being driven backward, there’s a good chance the defensive lineman will try to disengage them by moving side to side.

The side-to-side movement will often cause the offensive lineman to slide off and fall awkwardly on the ground.

This is another reason why knee braces are so key: they save your knees from being whipped and provide stability when thrown to the ground.

Protecting The Knees In Short Yardage Situations

In short-yardage situations, we can often see offensive and defensive linemen in 4 point stances. That means they are on both of their hands, as shown in the picture.

The goal for the defense is to get as low as possible, denying the offense any leverage to move the defensive lineman.

To get lower than the offensive lineman, we’ll often see the defensive lineman dive at their legs. These knee braces act as a stabilizer to ensure the knee doesn’t twist and turn on impact.

What Is The Knee Brace That Offensive Lineman Use?

Often the knee brace that linemen use is here on Amazon. They are called prophylactic braces.

The ones used in the college and the pros are a lot more sophisticated, but that’s the type of knee brace used. The prophylactic braces help to stabilize the knee and absorb shock from other athletes.

The issue with these knee braces is there costly. Outfitting a whole offensive line costs well over $5,000. If one breaks, it’s even more expensive. College and NFL teams have the budget to outfit their offensive line. High school teams, not so much.

Another cheaper option is to use knee sleeves to provide a little bit of stability to the knee. Not as much as the expensive brace, but it’s still better than nothing.

It’s important that you check with your trainer first, especially if you have a football knee injury such as an ACL tear, meniscus tear, or an MCL tear. They will either fit you for a compression sleeve or this brace.

The main goal is to get out of football as healthy as possible. These braces are used to help with injury prevention and anterior pain.

Why Offensive Lineman Wear Elbow Sleeves

“Pin The Elbow” is a common term heard by defensive coaches.

To achieve any disengagement from the offensive line, a defensive player will often try to pin the elbow as hard as possible to get past them. If a team runs over 50 plays a game, there’s a good chance their elbow is getting hit at least 30 times.

The offensive lineman will wear elbow sleeves to protect their elbow from contact to protect the elbow better.

Another reason offensive linemen will wear elbow sleeves is to stabilize their elbows on contact. Most of the contact made by an offensive lineman is through the elbow joints.

Similar to the knee, the elbow joint locks out when making contact with a defender. To better stabilize the elbow, the sleeve provides support for the offensive lineman to strike efficiently.

Do I Need A Knee Brace Or Elbow Sleeve To Play Offensive Line?

No. Whether it be high school or youth, you don’t have to have either. Simply playing football the way you’re dressed is enough to be an effective offensive lineman.

The reason why it’s good to have all this extra equipment is to stabilize the bigger defensive lineman.

When the player is younger, oftentimes, it’s not necessary to have items that stabilize certain body parts, as there’s not enough power or force generated to affect the bone structure.

However, if you hit a growth spurt and are bigger than the other defensive lineman, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to purchase knee stabilizing braces to protect yourself from being rolled upon.

This is the case for maybe 9th/10th graders who are 6’4 and taller and need to protect their knees.

Again, it’s completely up to the player/parent, but it’s unnecessary to play on the offensive line.

Keep Learning

Football can be complicated. That’s why we’ve created courses to help drastically improve your football IQ. If you’re a coach or a fan, we have something for you. Check out our courses below.

Below are offensive lineman articles to help you learn even more.

How To Play Offensive Line In Football – Complete Guide

How To Snap A Football & The Different Types Of Snaps

Offensive Line Play: The Proper Stance

Who Protects The Quarterback In Football?

Wearing knee braces and elbow braces can only help protect the offensive lineman; it’s not completely necessary to have them equipped.

There are no rules that players must have this equipment; it’s only a luxury to have this equipment.

Often, coaches like Bill Belichick recommend his players wear it just for the longevity of their player’s health. Also, as mentioned, players are 6’5 and are going against other tall players in the NFL.

The chance for a roll-up is frequent as bigger players fall harder to the ground. More weight and force on a player’s knee often amplifies the injury.

Wear your knee braces and elbow pads if necessary, but we found that great technique and proper footwork/hand placement are the great foundation for an offensive lineman, not how much equipment they’re wearing.

Let’s keep learning! Our learning center is packed with information regarding techniques, schemes, and more!

If you’re looking for more in-depth breakdowns & coaching resources, visit our coaching resource page here.

Do you wear elbow braces or knee braces? Let us know in the comments how much they’ve helped you and if you recommend them for all players.

About the author 

Chris Haddad

Chris Haddad is the founder of vIQtory Sports & high school coach for over 12+ years. He has been featured as an authority on Hudl, Bleacher Report and countless other football-centric platforms. Chris continues to study and provide valuable content for those looking to learn more about the game of football.