Long-Term Tested: Asterisk Cell Knee Brace
Price: $629 per pair
Colors: Red, blue, orange, yellow, green.
At TransWorld Motocross, we are all huge advocates of safety and good, quality protective equipment. Think about it: safe sports don’t require helmets, right? The sad fact is that our beloved sport is quite dangerous, and with the horsepower, speeds and heights associated with modern-day motocross being greater than ever, it’s more a matter of when you’ll crash, not if you’ll crash.
On a personal note, my first big motocross injury was a ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in my left knee, suffered way back in 1993 when I was an assistant editor at Cycle News. It was a windy day at Glen Helen, and I fell victim to a gust of wind that caused me to land left foot first, before the bike. My left knee buckled instantly, and I remember going into shock later in the pits when I removed my riding gear, took a couple steps, and felt my knee bend in a direction that it was never meant to. It took nearly a month for the swelling to subside enough for my surgery – a patella tendon graft – to be performed, and it was without a doubt the worst post-surgery pain I’ve ever experienced. As I recovered and began to think about riding again, I was prescribed and fitted for a fully custom Innovation Sports CTi2 knee brace. Because I wore it for a couple weeks for support before I ever got back on the bike, it was easy to get used to when I started to ride again. In fact, it felt odd having only one on, and I paid for a matching one for my right leg both to make the bike feel the same between both of my legs, and also to avoid the horrible pain that came along with my left knee injury.
Through the years, I had several sets of custom CTi2 knee braces. I actually broke one set in a horrific crash, and I shrunk out of another set when I actually started to train and lost about 20 pounds. One time, Dave Castillo – who was at Innovation Sports at the time – thought it’d be funny to paint my braces pink with white polka dots. I thought it was pretty funny and wore them that way, and the paramedic that cut my gear off when I KOed myself at Lake Elsinore, thought they were even funnier.
There have been many off-the-shelf knee braces that landed on my desk for testing through the years, and while many of them were great options for those looking for an affordable set of braces for preventative reasons, I always returned to my custom braces because I believed they did a better job of protecting my rebuilt knee joint. That is, until the latest version of the Asterisk Cell came along. I’ll admit that I was not a fan of the original Cell with it’s lace-up fastening system, but the newest version features four adjustable straps that are less bulky and more comfortable. The knee cup system is ingenious, and leaves no vulnerable gaps at all. As you bend your knee, upper and lower shields are revealed from beneath the patella cup, and as your leg is straightened, they dovetail back into place behind the patella cup.
Above, you’ll see the pair of Asterisk Cell braces that I’ve been riding and racing in for over a year. In contrast to my previous braces, they have not worn out, broken, or failed in any way. And wouldn’t you know it? I feel even safer in these than I ever did in my full custom braces.
Why? Believe it or not, thanks to the adjustable calf and thigh cuffs, and the excellent strapping system, I feel that they can actually be made to fit better than a custom set of braces, which are really only made off of a one-dimensional trace of your leg’s profile, coupled with some circumference measurements. Furthermore, the floating knee hinge automatically aligns itself with your knee joint; allowing it to fit perfectly on a wide range of leg and knee shapes. The brace is low in profile, and doesn’t get snagged or caught on your riding pants liner. The knee joint junctions are nice and rounded, and do not tear up your pant knees and bike graphics and seat covers like many braces do.
The most important feature of the brace – in my humble opinion – is the patented boot tether. When I see riders who have invested in a pair of Asterisk braces, but have been too lazy or hesitant to install the boot tether, I shake my head. What does it do? The boot tether securely attaches the bottom of the Cell brace to your riding boot, effectively making the boot and brace function as one united piece of equipment. Next time you’re at the track, try this when you are sitting in the pits: grasp the sides of your knee brace, and have your buddy give the toe of your boot a kick in either direction. If your brace is not tethered up, your leg will likely twist inside your brace. What do you think will happen when you catch your toe in a rut at speed? That’s right: you can twist your knee, even with a knee brace on. Tethered up, the force will be transferred from your boot, into the brace. Sure, your entire leg may get pulled with the rut, but your hip and thigh is much tougher than your knee joint! Furthermore, the force will be greatly dissipated by the time it gets that high. I know for a fact that the Asterisk Cell, tethered up to my riding boot, has helped prevent a twisting knee injury for me on more than one occasion.
If you’re in the market for a knee brace (riders who wear only knee cups straight-out scare me!), a pair of Asterisk Cells is worth every penny of their $629 price tag. And with the recent changes in American health care insurance, they are likely cheaper than even the best insurance policy co-payments for a knee surgery!
One last thing: kids can benefit from Asterisk technology too! The Germ features much of the same technology and costs $299.