Volleyball and basketball are similar sports in terms of their motion, but the knee pad designed for each is very different.
This is because of the type of contact involved. While volleyball involves two teams separated by a net, basketball involves players weaving in and out of one another.
Where volleyball involves deliberate contact against the floor – mostly on the knees, where the padding is needed most – contact in basketball is spread across the whole body as players block and push into one another.
While both volleyball and basketball knee pads are able to be used for either activity, each is specifically designed to help players succeed in its own sport.
Volleyball knee pads are designed with the sole function of limiting impact as much as possible, and often use split/foam padding or modular cushioning to protect the knee. Basketball knee pads are designed to support the whole knee in motion, and only provide limited padding to help with contact against other players.
Today, I’m going to be breaking down the differences between these two types of knee pads, including the design and some of their pros and cons to help you understand how they are best used.
Why Are Knee Pads Used in Volleyball?
Knee pads are used in volleyball because volleyball involves a lot of contact with the ground.
Not knowing how to receive or dive properly might contribute to some avoidable injuries, but at high levels of play – and matches where it really matters – slamming into the ground is only to be expected as both teams give it their all.
Because of this, knee pads are the most common (and arguably essential) piece of protection on the volleyball court.
Using knee pads in volleyball will keep you fit and healthy, out of pain, and able to continue playing volleyball for a long time to come.
Why Are Knee Pads Used in Basketball?
Knee pads are used in basketball for many of the same reasons as volleyball.
They protect players’ knees by preventing bruises from collisions and falls, help alleviate the burden of jumping, and help provide support to the knee.
Basketball can also be a pretty physical sport compared with volleyball. Players are constantly running, jumping, and (occasionally) diving at loose balls. This can lead to injury.
The interesting thing about basketball knee pads is that they are more similar to knee sleeves than true knee pads.
Their padding is designed more for contact with other players rather than the floor, and their other functions reveal that saving the players from impact is only one of several equally important goals.
Combined with their similarity to compression wear, I prefer to call these products “knee sleeves”.
Pros & Cons: Volleyball vs Basketball Knee Pads
Volleyball Knee Pad Pros:
Volleyball Knee Pads Provide Better Impact Support
Volleyball knee pads have dedicated padding to lessening the impact of body weight against the ground. As basketball pads are primarily designed to protect against impacts with other players, an equal amount of padding and science of design has not been applied to the problem.
Volleyball Knee Pads Are Cheaper
Volleyball knee pads run in the range between $20 and $40, while basketball knee sleeves can range between $20 and $70, depending on the design, brand, and whether you buy them from Amazon or the brand’s website.
Volleyball Knee Pads Are More Durable
Volleyball knee pads are designed to withstand constant collisions with the ground, and hold up pretty well for that. Basketball sleeves are usually a little thinner, made of material that doesn’t slide so well, and friction burns can create holes in their lining.
Volleyball Knee Pads Are Designed for Volleyball
At the end of the day, volleyball knee pads are simply better for volleyball because they were designed for the sport. They exist to protect a key area of stress on the body, distribute impact force, slide easily across the floor, and are lightweight enough not to hinder jumping or make a noticeable difference.
Volleyball Knee Pad Cons:
Most Volleyball Knee Pads Do Not Have Compression Properties
A big positive about basketball knee sleeves is that they seek to reduce and help heal injury before it becomes a problem. The same is done in compression sleeves, but having almost all basketball sleeves include that as their design is pretty cool. Needless to say, some do it better than others.
Volleyball Knee Pads Don’t Provide Comprehensive Knee Protection
Once again, a big positive about basketball knee pads has nothing to do with the padding: it’s the protection for the whole knee that makes them useful. Some have patella support built in, others have special lining to reinforce your ligaments or tendons and keep them where they’re supposed to be, but all are interesting.
I reviewed the 4 Best Volleyball Knee Pads ‒ click for my top recommendations.
Basketball Knee Pad Pros:
Basketball Knee Pads Have Compression Properties
Most basketball knee pads have similar properties to compression sleeves, reducing fatigue from running and jumping while safeguarding the knee from moving and becoming injured.
Basketball Knee Pads Provide Comprehensive Knee Protection
Most basketball knee pads have padding, compression properties, and may even provide patella support, making them a great all-around knee protection for sports.
Basketball Knee Pad Cons:
Basketball Knee Pads Are Not As Durable
Basketball sleeves are usually a little thinner, made of material that doesn’t slide so well, and friction burns can create holes in their lining. That being said, when used for basketball, where those things are not as big of a concern, their durability is perfectly fine.
Basketball Knee Pads Are Not Designed for Volleyball
Volleyball is a sport of moving forward, and that means that much of the impact from diving and passing the ball happens on the front of the body – primarily the hips and knees. Volleyball knee pads are padded to deal with this stress continuously over a long period of time, while basketball knee pads are not.
Can You Wear Basketball Knee Pads For Volleyball?
Yes, you can wear basketball knee pads/sleeves for volleyball, but they will not provide as comprehensive padding and impact support as the volleyball alternative.
Volleyball is an impact sport – with the ground – and proper protection and padding is recommended to maintain your body health and fitness. Basketball knee pads are designed to withstand impact with other players, not the ground, so do not have sufficient padding to be properly utilized in volleyball.
However, if you are playing a position that does not involve a lot of passing, diving, or other impacts with the ground (such as a middle blocker), basketball knee sleeves may actually be more desirable.
Not only do they double as compression sleeves, but they can alleviate some of the burden from constant jumping – one of the big challenges for middle blockers. While I would not recommend basketball sleeves for other volleyball positions, I believe middle blockers are the one position that would find success with them.
Can You Wear Volleyball Knee Pads For Basketball?
Yes, you can wear volleyball knee pads for basketball, and they may provide you with better impact support for your knees than the basketball alternative. However, basketball knee sleeves remain my recommendation for athletes playing basketball over their volleyball counterpart.
The problem is, most falling in basketball is uncontrolled – therefore making it difficult to predict where to use padding. On top of this, most basketball players have a tendency to fall backwards (either on purpose or pushed), landing on their side, bottom, or back rather than their knees.
In volleyball, however, players tend to fall forwards, moving through their momentum, and either cushion their fall with a dive or landing on their knees. For this reason most of all, volleyball knee pads are less useful for basketball than they are for volleyball.
Although you can wear volleyball knee pads for basketball, they are less effective at the intended purpose – protecting the knee against collisions with other players and supporting the tendons – and would be recommended only for extremely specific circumstances.
For the curious player deciding what to wear, a patella pad is a commonly used alternative to knee pads for basketball, and works by stabilizing the knee (patella) while playing. It performs the same function as many knee sleeves minus the padding and impact support.
All in all, I believe that you will find better support and success in basketball with basketball knee sleeves.
Other Volleyball Knee Pad Resources
- How to Wash Volleyball Knee Pads Without Wrecking Them
- How Long Do Volleyball Knee Pads Last? (Honest Perspective)
- Volleyball Knee Pad Sizing (Do They Stretch?)
- How Much Do Volleyball Knee Pads Cost? (Breakdown Per Brand)
- What Are Volleyball Knee Pads Made Of? (Materials Explained)
- Best Volleyball Knee Pads With Patella Support
- Best Volleyball Knee Pads For Liberos
About The Author
Ailan Samuel is a writer and athlete who has played volleyball at the university, club, and national level since 2012. He has competed successfully in both beach and indoor competitions, resulting in four silver and two gold medals, and was awarded the Half-Blue while playing in Scotland. He received his MA in English and Medieval History from the University of St Andrews, Scotland, and is currently studying for his MA in Publishing and Creative Writing at Bournemouth University.