Shoulder injuries are one of the most common injuries in all of sports. If you consider the loads placed on the shoulder during activities such as throwing, tackling, or landing on an outstretched arm, it’s no wonder why injuries are so common. Shoulder injuries are the 5th most common type of injury amongst high school athletes (1). That’s thousands and thousands of shoulder injuries across the US on a weekly basis. Not only can shoulder injuries cause lost playing time, it can cause lost time at work, lost time at school and potentially prolonged chronic dysfunction in the future. One of the best ways to get back on the sporting field while also reducing your risk for re-injury is to wear a shoulder brace designed for sports.
Who Should Consider a Shoulder Brace
You might be a high school senior that doesn’t want to miss the playoffs in your final year or possibly the weekend warrior who’s shoulder hasn’t quite been right since falling on it years ago. Maybe you’ve already had surgery just really don’t want to go through that gain. Either way, the goals is to get back to doing what you love doing while also minimizing your risk of injury.
The Best Shoulder Braces for Sports
EVS Sports Shoulder Brace
|Level 3 protection that can go on either arm||5/5||$$||See current Price|
Shock Doctor Shoulder Support Brace
|Level 3 protection with a snug fit||5/5||$$||See Current Price|
Babo Care Shoulder Stability Brace
|Great warranty and customer service|
|4.75/5||$||See Current Price|
McDavid Shoulder Support Brace
|Level 1 Support for minor aches and sprains||4.5/5||$||See Current Price|
Zenkeyz Shoulder Brace
|Comes with an E-book and shoulder pulley||4.5/5||$||See Current Price|
Zeegler Shoulder Stability Brace
|Good fit for both men and women||4.5/5||$||See Current Price|
Vistery Shoulder Brace Support
|Easy to take on and off|
|4.5/5||$||See Current Price|
What’s the Purpose of a Shoulder Brace
There are many different injuries that might benefit from wearing a shoulder brace. Obviously, in a perfect world you would have time to let your shoulder injury heal after an injury. See the doctor or a physical therapist and rehab it appropriately back to 100% of normal. Unfortunately, injuries never happen at convenient times.
The various injuries that a shoulder brace might benefit include a SLAP or labral tear, shoulder dislocation, AC joint separation, clavicle fracture, or muscle and or tendon tear such as a rotator cuff tear.
The purpose of a shoulder brace in sports is to prevent further injury. A brace should help decrease pain, not limit your performance, while also decreasing re-injury risk. It will not fix a pre-existing injury but hopefully can prevent the current injury from getting worse. A general rule most braces try to limit movement and provide more stability. Each brace comes with a different amount of shoulder stability and should be chosen based on the sport and position. A linebacker might choose the EVS brace because of more stability, while the volleyball spiker might choose the Babo Care brace because she needs to raise her arm above her head to spike the ball.
What are the Different Levels of Shoulder Brace Support
Level 1 Shoulder Brace – Compression-Alignment-Healing
The brace focuses on ‘Compression’ oriented designs. These products offer light support for minor pain, sprains and strains allowing for daily use for an extended period of time. Compression provides soft tissue support, joint alignment, therapeutic warmth and blood flow.
Level 2 Shoulder Brace – Support-Compression-Alignment-Healing
These braces maintain the benefits of Level 1 products, and offers products designed to provide the athlete more ‘Support’ with moderate stability features and adjustable compression fit options. These products are intended for minor to moderate sprains, muscle strains and unstable joints allowing for use as necessary for recovery.
Level 3 Shoulder Brace – Stability-Support-Compression-Alignment-Healing
Level 3 braces benefit the athlete with support characteristics inherent to the Level 2 products, but provide ‘Stability’ through more advanced designs and integrated support features. Level 3 products offer medium stability and are targeted for moderate to major ligament sprains, muscle strains and unstable joints allowing for use as necessary for recovery.
Therefore, it is key to remember when trying on a shoulder brace, you won’t be able to move your arm as far as you normally can!
How We Ranked The Best Shoulder Braces for Sports and Sports Injuries
We went through all the braces that we could find and determined the best braces for each injury and the best brace overall for any sport. Some of the key factors going into our decision included:
Does the shoulder brace do what it is designed to do?
This is the most important question of them all right. Does the brace actually indeed decrease risk for re-injury and help you play sports? If not then it won’t make this list and therefore shouldn’t be a consideration. The different levels of support ranking system should be used to determine what’s best for you.
Shoulder Brace Material
Is the material high quality in that can it last a full season of sport? Can it handle being pulled and grabbed by opposing players? Also is the material comfortable or is something that you can’t wait to take off as soon as the game is over.
Is the Shoulder Brace Machine Washable
This may matter more to mom but this is so simply important but with the amount of sweat, dirt, and germs it’s extremely helpful to be machine washable.
Does the shoulder brace fit underneath a jersey
This is obviously more important in some sports more so than other. Football is a common sport that most of the braces fit underneath the shoulder pads and jersey. But what about tighter basketball, soccer, or even gymnastics?
How does the shoulder brace look?
One of the last things that you want is to hate the look of the brace and therefore not wear it even though you need to. If the brace does what it is supposed to and looks sharp at the same time then the athlete is more likely to wear it.
Can you use the shoulder brace in everyday life and in sports?
If you injury is still fresh and sore can you use it under a shirt at work or school? You want to be able to calm down the shoulder that was just injured as well.
How to Put on a Shoulder Brace
Common Shoulder Injuries in Sports That Might Benefit from Wearing a Brace
No one wants to sustain and shoulder injury but unfortunately they happen. Some of the injuries mentioned below will heal over time, sometimes you might need to take some time off and rehab, and some may even require surgery in severe cases.
If the injury is severe enough that it requires surgery but is not a severe fracture you may ask your surgery if you can finish out the season by wearing a brace. In some instances, such as shoulder dislocations, surgery can wait if the shoulder is protected and the athlete can tolerate the pain.
Most common places for upper arm fractures are the collar bone and potentially the Humerus bone. Most of those do require rest and can get worse with continuing to play. Usually occurs from falling or being tackled onto a shoulder. Would likely benefit from a shoulder brace if returning early from a fracture and need extra padding.
This is a “Separated Shoulder.” The ligaments that connect the collar bone and the Acromion (shoulder blade) become torn and the collar bone becomes displaced. Most of the time it does not require surgery but can be very painful. Similar mechanism of injury as a fracture with falling or being tackled onto the shoulder causing the injury. May benefit from a shoulder brace if pain persists and returning prior to full healing.
AC Joint Separation
This occurs when the Labrum of the Glenoid is torn. The Labrum helps deepen the shoulder socket, stabilizes the shoulder, is an attachment for the long head of the biceps, and helps regulate the pressure within the shoulder joint. When a SLAP tear occurs it may be painful to throw a ball, bear weight on the arm, or reach into a 90/90 position. May occur from repetitive throwing motions, being tackled with the arm caught behind the athlete or when caught in a position across the body. May benefit from a brace depending on the position and athlete as a brace may limit shoulder external rotation in provocative arm positions.
In the majority of shoulder dislocations, the head of the shoulder becomes displaced forward. The shoulder often needs to be reduced back into place and is often pretty painful. A brace can help with re-dislocation rates and returning to sport when pain is high. However depending on the age of the athlete, recurrent dislocations are common. Usually occurs from falling on an outstretched arm or getting an arm pulled behind them in tackling.
Don't Try This At Home
A Bankart Lesion occurs when the shoulder dislocates and the backside of the shoulder hits the Glenoid hard enough to dent or fracture the Glenoid rim. This may or may not occur with a Hill-Sachs Lesion which is damage to the back side of the head of the shoulder. A brace may be warranted for really to play.
Rotator cuff tears are fairly rare in the youth athlete but are more common for the older weekend warrior. The rotator cuff is comprised of 4 muscles and their corresponding tendons. A rotator cuff tear will make it harder to lift the arm and you may have noticeable weakness. Usually occurs from falling on the shoulder or repetitive overhead activity.
Rotator Cuff Tear
Muscle strains and ligament sprains are common with participation in any sporting activity. Most of the time these with heal by themselves if they are mild or moderate in severity. A sports brace may be beneficial to help avoid missing the next game or for the tear in the muscle or ligament from progressing while it heals.
Overview of The Best Shoulder Braces
EVS Shoulder Sports Brace
Easily our favorite, the EVS shoulder brace for playing or returning to sports, especially contact sports. It provides maximum shoulder protection for impact and collisions. Able to wear on both the left or the right arm and is easily put on and taken off by yourself. The material is comfortable and breathable, yet durable to use on and off the field.
EVS Shoulder Brace
- Level 3 support
- Fits either arm
- Durable, great for contact sports
- One of the best looking braces
- Slightly more expensive than the other braces but usually worth it depending on your situation
Shock Doctor Shoulder Brace
The Shock Doctor shoulder brace comes in as our second favorite sports brace. It provides moderate stability which great for all of the injuries listed above. It can be used on either shoulder, provides great compression for comfort and is latex free. Great looking brace and fits under most uniforms. Provides level 3 support which is the highest level of stability.
Shock Doctor 842 Brace
- Provides Level 3 Supports
- Fits under most uniforms
- Fits either arm
- Great looking brace
- People have complained about the fit
- Some complaints about adjustability – so sizing is crucial
Babo Care Shoulder Brace
The Babo Care Sports brace is a great option. It has the most positive reviews of all the braces on Amazon at over 600. It comes with great support, can be worn on either arm, and fits well for both men and women. It’s made from breathable neoprene and comes equipped with a pressure pad for either an ice or hot pack to place on the shoulder while wearing the brace. Fits well under all types of jerseys and most importantly comes with 12 months satisfaction 100% money back guarantee.
- Great Warranty and Customer Service
- Very comfortable on the skin
- Light and compressive
- Does great in the washing machine
- Some complaints of sizing issues
- Not as supportive as a level 3 support
McDavid Shoulder Brace
The McDavid Brace is on the lighter and less restrictive side of the spectrum. It is a level 1 support which is great for minor sprains and strains. Fits either arm and is latex free. This is great for athletes that have less major high impact collisions such as in basketball or soccer.
- Light, breathable material
- Fits either shoulder
- Fits Men and Women
- Level 1 support
- Some complaints about returning
- Complaints about the arm size
Zen Keys Shoulder Brace
The Zen Keys Shoulder brace is a newcomer to the game but comes as a recovery kit which gives it some bonus points. The kit includes the brace, a rope pulley to help with range of motion, and an E-book to help with stretching. The shoulder brace also comes with a pocket pad for an ice pack or heat pack to help with pain during halftime or after the game. The brace is lightweight, breathable, adjustable in size, and fits both men and women. finally , our favorite, it comes with a 100% moneyback guarantee.
- Great warranty and money back guarantee
- Comes with a shoulder pulley and E-book
- Has a pocket pad for ice/heat
- Not quite as supportive for intense sports
- New brace with less of a following
Zeegler Orthosis Shoulder Brace
The Zeegler orthosis shoulder brace is another great option. This Zeegler brace fits both men and women, can be used on either shoulder, and comes with a free E-book “How to Deal with Shoulder Pain.” This brace fits under most jerseys and helps with most sports injuries and also comes with a 3 months money back guarantee.
- Fits both men and women
- Comes with an E-book for shoulder pain
- Comes with a modestly good return guarantee
- Less support for contact sports
- Some don’t care for the different colors
Vistery Shoulder Brace
The Vistery Shoulder Brace is one of the best looking braces on the list. It’s easy to put on and take off by yourself, is lightweight yet still provides solid protections, is made with breathable neoprene, and comes with a 30 day money back guarantee.
- Comfortable and lightweight
- It has a 30 day return policy
- Comes with pad for an ice pack
- Some complaints about sizing, make sure you measure correctly
How To Put on a Shoulder Brace
- Powell J.W, Barber-Foss K.D. Injury patterns in selected high school sports: a review of the 1995–1997 seasons. J Athl Train. 1999;34(3):277–284. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1322923/
The subacromial impingement syndrome of the shoulder treated by conventional physiotherapy, self-training, and a shoulder brace: Results of a prospective, randomized study – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1058274604000485
The effect of scapular posterior tilt exercise, pectoralis minor stretching, and shoulder brace on scapular alignment and muscles activity in subjects with round-shoulder posture – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1050641114002235
- The Effect of a Neoprene Shoulder Stabilizer on Active Joint-Reposition Sense in Subjects With Stable and Unstable Shoulders – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC164336/
Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is for educational purposes only. This is not a substitute for a medical appointment. Please refer to your physician before starting any exercise program.