What are Basketball Knee Pads For?

Athletes in several sports use knee pads. It is normal to wear knee pads for skateboarding, volleyball, and mountain biking. Is it also normal to wear knee pads in basketball? While knee pads might be less noticeable on the court, they are very useful in basketball.

Knee pads protect basketball players’ knees. A basketball court’s surface is one of the hardest playing fields in any sport besides outdoor pavement. Knee injuries from jumping for a shot, diving for a ball, or man-to-man contact are frequent.

For many reasons, knee pads should be an obvious choice for basketball players to wear to help protect them from injuries. They help players keep their knee caps and surrounding muscles safe. Serious injuries can occur if a player lands on their knee during a game. Read on to learn all about knee pads in basketball. 

Knee Pads for Basketball

Today’s knee pads look and feel incredibly different than ones from years past. This has influenced younger basketball players to adopt the use of knee braces during practice and games.

Professional basketball players are often seen wearing support braces or knee pads. Basketball is a high-fashion sport, on and off the court, and companies are making knee pads designed to match the style of the players and the game.  

Basketball knee pads are used to prevent serious injuries. Typical basketball movements that may result in knee injuries include the following:

  • Straining for a ball
  • Impact from jumping
  • Man-on-man contact

Basketball players wear knee pads for a number of reasons besides directly protecting the knee cap. Knee pads with compression support or bracing mechanisms built-in can prevent smaller injuries or tearing of the knee over time. These small injuries can lead to long-term damage such as arthritis, putting players permanently on the bench.

Preventing Knee Injuries 

Knee injuries are one of the most common injuries in basketball, and a blow to the knee can sideline a player for a year or more. Knee pads are worn to prevent injury either from contact with the floor when diving for a ball or bumping other players.

Knee pads can also help stabilize the knee from the frequent side-to-side motions in basketball. 

Supporting the Knee

Some knee pads support the entire knee area with built-in compression material. This is especially helpful for basketball players who constantly run, jump and move latterly. 

Compression knee pads are great for reducing muscle soreness, improving blood flow, and providing stability to joints. They can also reduce injury downtime. 

New Players

The contact involved in basketball can be intimidating for some new players. Knee pads can build a player’s confidence if they know they will not severely hurt their knees since they are wearing the knee pads. 

Pain Management

Knee pads with built-in compression materials can also help basketball players who already experience knee pain.

These knee pads support the knee, prevent further injuries, and reduce recovery time from previous knee injuries.

Types of Knee Pads for Basketball

There are two different types of knee pads for basketball. 

  • Support sleeves
  • Padded pull-on knee pads

There are even more types of knee pads used in other types of athletics. Basketball players mainly utilize the two types of knee pads listed above.


Support sleeves or compression braces are types of knee pads used for mild knee pain. These knee pads take the weight load off of the knee. Some compression braces do cover the knee cap itself, but these are specifically designed to support the entire knee, not to protect the knee cap alone. 

  • Knee pads designed for support offer less protection around the knee cap itself.
  • It is specifically designed to cushion the joints around the knee.
  • This can be particularly useful in basketball, where sudden stops and starts and lateral body movements often strain the muscles and joints. 

You can usually tell if a support sleeve or brace is also a compression device if it has Spandex in its material makeup. Usually, around 15 percent or more Spandex in the material will make a compression knee brace effective. This is a great example from Amazon.

Padded Pull-On Knee Pad

Padded pull-on knee pads are usually used in volleyball and are the most practical pad for basketball players to use for knee protection. The pad is usually made up of Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), a thermoplastic, which you will most commonly see as the thick white padding in the soles of your shoes. The knee pads are easy to get on and off and are flexible for motion. 

These pads are typically available in three lengths: 

These different sizes allow players to choose their own personal preference for comfort and style.

How to Choose the Correct Knee Pad for Basketball

There are a few things to keep in mind when looking for the right knee pad. A good knee pad should have the following qualities:

  • Comfortable
  • Flexible
  • Protective

Plain and simple, a knee pad should be made of materials sturdy enough to protect your knee from injuries.


The first thing to look for in a knee pad is whether it is easy to get on and off, is comfortable, and will not slip. If the knee pad is not comfortable when you are trying it on, it just will not work in a basketball game.

Several products offer reinforced edging, such as silicone, which along with helping to prevent slippage, usually does not aggravate any skin allergies. 


Make sure the knee pads are made of breathable materials. The knee pad needs to wick moisture away from the body to prevent chafing, rashes, and blisters.

If the main fabric component is polyester, it is a safe bet that the knee pad or sleeve is breathable. 

Ease of Play

When you are trying on the knee pads, make sure you are still able to jump, run, and move side to side easily and comfortably. You should still be able to make all the same moves in basketball while wearing your knee pads.

It may seem awkward at first, but give it some time, and you will get used to the feeling. 

Correct Size

Each company will have its own sizing chart for its knee pad products. There are also youth-sized knee pads. Make sure you choose the correct category, adult or youth, first, and then look at the correct corresponding size chart to make sure you are ordering the correct size. 

Supportive knee pads will have a size chart as well for each company. The important thing to remember with supportive knee pads or compression is that these types of knee pads are designed for a tight, constricting fit. These knee pads definitely should not cut off your circulation, but they should feel tight and supportive while you wear them. 

Quality of Materials 

Quality knee pads should offer a sturdy knee pad that ensures injuries to the knee won’t be severe if you fall. Typically, a good knee pad will use the following materials in the pad itself. 

  • High-density EVA
  • Gel 
  • Rubber
  • Plastic
  • Carbon fiber
  • Neoprene foam
  • Nylon foam
  • Polyurethane foam
  • Polyethylene foam
  • Nylon foam

Again, EVA is the most common pad material used in knee pads. Also, look for a knee pad that is lightweight. The material should be lightweight, so you are not bogged down by the knee pad while you run. 

It is always a good idea to check the product reviews for the knee pad you intend to purchase. Ask questions to the people who have purchased the knee pads before, or call the manufacturer if you have specific questions. 

Finally, make sure the knee pad is designed for basketball, and you like the look of the knee pad. If you are comfortable and confident, you will not miss a step in your game. 

Negatives of Wearing Knee Pads for Basketball

There are only a couple of things to look out for when wearing knee pads. However, none of these should overpower the need to protect your knee from serious injury. 

  • Wearing knee pads for a long time can leave compression marks on the knee caps and marks behind the knee. However, these do go away shortly after wearing them. 
  • If you have osteoarthritis patients, knee pads that are too tight can cut off blood circulation around the knee joint.
  • Relying on supportive or compression knee pads can weaken the leg muscles if you wear them for long periods of time.

None of these drawbacks outweigh the benefits of wearing knee pads for basketball. 

Protecting your knees is essential in basketball. Your kneecaps are highly susceptible to injuries, and the joints around the knee can become strained and injured over time due to the jumping, running, and side-to-side motions of basketball. That is why it is a great idea to wear knee pads, protect your knees, and stay in the game for the long run. 


Although no padding is required in basketball, knee pads are a great protective device to use to prevent knee injuries common in basketball. The sport itself is played on hard-court surfaces, where a fall or wrongly-landed jump could injure the knee for a long period of time. Knee pads are a perfect way to prevent these knee injuries. 

If you prepare properly by practicing, keeping up with your fitness level and flexibility, your leg muscles, plus a knee pad will be your best line of defense to prevent knee injuries. Improving balance and wearing a knee pad in a compression sleeve or brace also help prevent injuries.

If you liked this post, be sure to check “Can Basketball Players Wear Glasses?” & “Can Basketball Players Wear Gloves?“.


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