Common Knee Injuries
This article reviews different types of knee injuries. Because the knee is vital in everyday motions such as sitting and standing, walking, running, and lifting, it is subject to a variety of stresses and several types of injuries. Common knee injuries include fractures and dislocation of the bones around the joint, and sprains and tears of soft tissues like ligaments. Often, an injury involves two or more components such as bones, ligaments, or cartilage of the knee.
The patella is the knee bone most commonly broken. The femur and tibia can also incur fractures where they meet to form the knee joint. Knee fractures are often caused by high energy trauma, such as impacts in sports, falls, and car accidents.
Dislocation occurs when the bones of the knee are forced either completely or partially out of place. In people with normal knee structure, dislocations are typically due to high energy trauma, including sports-related contact, falls, or car accident. Dislocations can be also result from abnormality in the anatomy of the knee.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury
Tears and strains of the anterior cruciate ligament are often associated with sports such as soccer, football, and basketball. The strains associated with rapidly changing direction, stopping on unyielding surfaces, or landing from a jump can tear the ACL. Often, injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament occur along with damage to other knee components like the articular cartilage, meniscus, or other ligaments.
Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injury
The posterior cruciate ligament can be damaged by impact to the front of the knee while the knee is bent backwards, often occurring in sports or auto accidents. PCL tears tend to be partial tears, and may potentially heal on their own.
Collateral Ligament Injuries
The collateral ligaments can be injured by forceful contact that pushes the knee sideways. Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) injuries can result from a blow to the outside of the knee, often sports-related. A blow to the inside of the knee that forces the knee outwards can injure the Lateral Collateral Ligament. LCL tears occur less frequently than other knee injuries.
Meniscal Tears often happen during sports that involve twisting, cutting, pivoting, being tackled, or from accidental falls. Arthritis or aging can deteriorate the meniscus, making it more prone to a tearing injury.
The quadriceps and patellar tendons can be injured by strain or tear. Middle-aged people who play running or jumping sports are more prone to tears. Direct force to the front of the knee from impact from a fall, or an awkward landing, can result in knee tendon injuries.1
Iliotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome
ITB syndrome is swelling and irritation caused by a tendon rubbing over the outer bone of the knee. Overtraining in sports, or other overuse conditions can cause this condition. Symptoms can include:
- Pain at the side of the knee, which may extend up the outer thigh
- A snapping sensation when the leg is bent and then straightened
- An ache or burning sensation at the side of the knee during repeated motion2
If knee pain is severe or does not improve within a day or two, it is very important to see a doctor for expert evaluation of any knee injury. Untreated knee injuries can lead to chronic pain or deterioration. The pain and deterioration may cause reduced function of the knee joint that can advance to become life-limiting, affecting mobility and day-to-day activities. When in doubt seek medical attention for knee injuries.2,3
Non-Surgical Treatment of Knee Injuries
The most common non-surgical treatment options for non-fracture knee injuries include the following, often in combination:
- RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation help control pain and swelling immediately after an injury.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): Taken as directed, NSAIDs decrease inflammation and help with pain.
- Physical therapy: Exercise movements help stretch and strengthen the knee.
- Bracing: While an injury heals, a brace can be worn to immobilize the knee joint.
- Corticosteroid injections: Anti-inflammatory medications may be injected into the knee joint.
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. "Patellar (Kneecap) Fractures". orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/patellar-kneecap-fractures. (Accessed January 16, 2019).
- American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. "Common knee injuries". orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/common-knee-injuries. (Accessed January 16, 2019).
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. "Knee Problems". niams.nih.gov/health-topics/knee-problems. (Accessed January 16, 2019).
The information in this article is for informational and educational purposes and is not meant as medical advice. Every patient's case is unique and each patient should follow his or her doctor's specific instructions. Please discuss nutrition, medication and treatment options with your doctor to make sure you are getting the proper care for your particular situation.