Common knee injuries vary from minor falls which may settle down in a
few days to major accidents which may take months to recover from. The knee ligaments and cartilage are the structures most commonly damaged.
Here you will find information on the most common knee injuries including how they occur, the knee injuries symptoms for each one and treatment information. You can find out more about each type of injury, including the best treatments to ensure a quick and full recovery by clicking on the links below for more info. They are grouped into four categories:
1) Ligament Injuries: damage to the ligaments that support the joint
2) Cartilage Injuries: damage to the cartilage lining the joint
3) Muscle Injuries: damaged to the muscle fibres
4) Kneecap Injuries: damage to the patella bone
There are 4 ligaments in the knee, which work in the pairs. The anterior cruciate ligament and posterior cruciate ligament control the forwards and backwards movement of the knee and are really important for providing stability. The medial and lateral collateral ligaments provide sideways stability for the knee.
Ligaments are usually injured either by sudden twisting movements, or when a great deal of force goes through part of the knee eg from a sporting tackle.
What is it: Anterior Cruciate Ligament gets overstretched and tears/ruptures
Causes: Knee bending the wrong way, pushing back too far or twisting of the knee
Immediate Symptoms: Popping sound, swelling, pain, giving way
Long Term Consequences: Lack of stability with pivoting and twisting
Treatment: Exercise rehab and/or surgery. See ACL Injuries section for more info.
What is it: Damage to some or all of the fibres of the Medial Collateral Ligament.
Causes: Force through the outside of the knee eg tackle, sudden twisting of the knee eg skiing
Symptoms: Inner knee pain, swelling, instability, difficulty bending the knee
Treatment: PRICE, exercises, knee brace. See the MCL Tear section for more info.
What is it: Overstretching any of the knee ligaments which tears some of the fibres. This is one of the most common knee injuries
Causes: sudden force through the knee or sudden twisting
Symptoms: knee pain, swelling, instability, difficulty bending and straightening the knee
Treatment: PRICE, exercises, knee braces. See the knee sprain section for more info.
The knee joint is lined with 2 types of cartilage, articular cartilage which lines the bones, and then a second special layer of cartilage known as the meniscus. The meniscus works like special cushioning to reduce the force going through the knee bones.
What is it: Tear in the cartilage lining the knee joint. This is one of the most common knee injuries
Causes: a) Suddenly - force through the knee or sudden twisting of the knee, or b) Gradually - through wear and tear e.g. arthritis
Symptoms: knee pain, swelling, locking, instability, difficulty straightening the knee, difficulty walking
Treatment: PRICE, exercises, knee brace, tubigrip, sometimes requires surgery. Can take a long time to heal - see the Cartilage Injuries section for more info.
If the muscles around the knee are suddenly overstretched, some or all of the muscle fibres can tear. These are commonly referred to as muscle strains. Treated correctly, and a full recovery is usually made in a few weeks, but if you try to return to activity too quickly, you are likely to suffer from long term problems
What is it: Tear to some or all of the muscles fibres in one or both of the calf muscle
Causes: a) Suddenly - sudden acceleration eg jumping or sprinting, or b) Gradually - repetitive overuse eg running
Symptoms: calf pain, swelling, bruising, difficulty walking, cramp
Treatment: PRICE, exercises, tubigrip, sometimes requires surgery. See the Calf Muscle Strain section for more info.
What is it: Knee cap get pushed out of place. This is one of the least common knee injuries
Causes: Usually caused by major, high impact injury eg car crash.
Symptoms: Deformed leg - won’t be in a straight line. Very painful and swollen. Occasionally you lose feeling below the knee.
Treatment: Relocation of the bones, exercises, knee brace, may require surgery.
What is it: When the kneecap bone breaks into two or more pieces.
Causes: A great force through the front of the knee eg falling from a height or impact from a car crash.
Symptoms: Pain and swelling at the front of the knee. Difficulty moving the knee and walking
Treatment: May require surgery, exercises, knee brace and/or cast.
To find out more about each of the specific common knee injuries, including simple and effective treatment options for each, click the links above.
There are a number of other causes of knee pain which tend to come on
gradually rather than suddenly. If you have a longer term knee
or have been having knee pain for a while but don’t know what’s wrong,
then go to my section devoted to common knee conditions
or visit the knee pain diagnosis
section for help working out what is causing your knee pain. You can also find a wide range of treatment options in the knee pain treatment section.
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Updated 5th March 2014
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