Pro Football Hall of Fame
Pro Football Hall of Fame

Joe Namath’s Knee Brace

The MMQB presents NFL 95, a special project running through mid-July detailing 95 artifacts that tell the story of the NFL, as the league prepares to enter its 95th season. See the entire series here.

The white fur coat might have been his most famous accessory, but the knee brace was Broadway Joe’s most important.

All the history Joe Namath made for the New York Jets, after all, depended on him playing on those wonky knees. His right knee was already gimpy when he signed his superstar-making $427,000 contract (record-setting money in those days) as the No. 1 pick in the 1965 AFL draft. Just a few weeks later, Jets team orthopedist James Nicholas operated on Namath for the first time, to fix the injury he’d suffered during his senior season at Alabama. Nicholas fashioned a special brace to protect Namath’s knee, with the help of the Lenox Hill Hospital’s brace shop, and told the rookie quarterback he might be able to play four years.

Namath went on to play 13 seasons, though his knee problems only got worse—he needed four operations during his time with the Jets (two on each knee) and years later had a double knee replacement. That fourth season, though, did end up being significant: That was 1968, the year Namath made his famous guarantee to upset the Colts in Super Bowl III—still the Jets’ only championship.

— Jenny Vrentas

Photo courtesy of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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I have two Lenox-Hill Derotation Braces, one for each knee.  

I got my first one for my right knee in 1980, and the second one for my left knee in 1983.  By that time, such braces were obsolete and replaced by a much lighter and stronger brace made from carbon fiber material.  But I talked my doctors into getting me a matching set of Lenox-Hill braces so I could say I had the same braces as Joe Namath!  

And I still have them.


WOW! I'm glad you published a picture of that brace! It gives us a much better perspective of the difficulties Namath had to get past just to get on the field, let alone play at the level he did. That thing is massive. We saw the difficulties RGIII had last year playing with a brace. He was a shadow of his former self. Can you imagine what Namath's career stats would have looked like if his knees were healthy?