Athletes speak of horror stories about career-endingknee injuries and sometimes you can’t help but wonder why that is so.
The knee joint might be mighty with its ability to hold up your upper body weight, but it’s not perfect. Because of its range of motion, the knee is vulnerable to a handful of injuries. In this article we’ve rounded up 4 of the most common knee injuries: what they are, how to spot them, and what you can do to treat them.
Your patella, commonly known as your kneecap, is the triangular-shaped bone in front of your knee joint.
Because it is your knee’s first line of defense, it can get easily fractured after a bad fall or high impact scenarios like in contact sports.
There are different ways that your patella can be fractured.
A stable fracture is a non-displaced fracture where the broken bone fragments are relatively in contact with each other or if they’re separated, only by a minimal distance. As a stable fracture heals, the patella remains intact until it has fully recovered.
A displaced fracture is when the broken ends of the bone do not line up correctly. They are like two puzzle pieces whose ends don’t meet. In a displaced fracture, the patella’s surface may also be disrupted. This fracture often requires surgery to put the pieces of the bones back together.
Not all fractures are made equal and depending on the impact, you can end up with a comminuted fracture. A comminuted fracture is when the patella shatters into three or more pieces. Depending on the intensity of the impact, a comminuted fracture can either be stable or displaced.
An open fracture is when the bone breaks and sticks out through the skin - yes, just like in the medical dramas. On the other hand, it can also be when a wound penetrates deep enough that it reaches down to the bone.
An open fracture is a double whammy because you have to take care of the broken bone fragments as well as the surrounding soft tissues and skin.
This is why open fractures take the longest to heal. They are the most serious among the fractures since there is a higher risk for infection for both the skin wound and the bone since the skin has been cut open and exposed.
Depending on the severity of the injury, the treatment for the fracture can either be surgical or nonsurgical.
For stable fractures, your doctor might recommend a cast or a brace to aid your knee joint as it recovers. This will keep the knee immobilized and kept in the proper position as it heals and to prevent any more damage caused by bearing weight or any type of motion. In most situations, weight bearing will not be allowed for 6-8 weeks.
For more severe patellar fractures such as an open fracture, surgical treatment will be needed in order to properly heal your patella. Bone fragments that have been displaced take longer to recover - sometimes not at all. In cases like this, your doctor must piece the broken fragments together by way of screws, small plates, pins, wires, or tension bands.
Once the bone fragments are displaced and they aren’t given proper attention, they have the tendency to move because the thigh muscles on top of the patella pull the pieces further away as time goes on.
Reminder: It is important to talk to your doctor once you notice symptoms of a fracture in order to heal your knee joint properly.
A dislocation happens when the three bones in your knees don’t align: the tibia, the patella, and the femur. Knee dislocations happen after a high impact sports or vehicular accident, or more often than not, when you twist your knee while your foot is planted on the ground.
For mild cases, a dislocated kneecap will spontaneously correct itself and return to its original position. Otherwise, help from your doctor will be needed to relocate your knee and snap it back to place. To reduce the pain, the patient will need to be sedated for the procedure.
Recovery from a dislocated knee takes an average of 6 weeks until you can return to your normal activities.
A knee sprain occurs when one or more of the knee’s 4 ligaments is overstretched or overexerted.
The knee joint is made up of 4 fibrous tissues that keep the knees in place: Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL), Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), and the Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL).
Symptoms of a knee sprain can vary depending on which ligament is sprained.
A knee sprain is the least threatening of all the knee injuries and can easily be soothed by the PRICE method. PRICE stands for:
P - Protect the injured area
R - Rest from any strenuous activity
I - Ice for 20 minutes at a time
C - Compress to decrease swelling
E - Elevate to keep the blood flow away from the injury
Icing and rest are the most effective methods to help your knee joint recover from a sprain. Paired with a couple of rehabilitation exercises, you’ll be back on your feet in no time.
Your meniscus is the knee’s shock absorber. It is the piece of cartilage that cushions the joint and absorbs the impact that occurs during physical activities.
Meniscal tears are very common in sports that require jumping like volleyball or contact sports like football. Aside from the impact that the meniscus receives, it can easily tear when a person abruptly changes direction while running.
The patellar tendon provides stability to the knee muscles in front of the thigh. It helps straighten the legs and keeps the knee in place.
Unlike meniscal tears, tendon tears do not happen to athletes primarily. Tendon tears can happen to just about anyone, especially middle-aged people. An accident such as a fall or a high jump can potentially tear your patellar tendon and injure you.
The knee ligaments we’ve mentioned above can also tear and different symptoms manifest for the different types of ligaments:
Located at the front of the knee joint, the ACL connects the thigh to the shin bone and helps keep it stable.
Located at the back of the knee joint, the PCL connects the thigh to the shin bone and helps keep it stable
Located at the sides of the knee joint (medial and lateral), the collateral ligaments keeps the knee joint from moving side to side
Cause of Tear
ACL injuries are more common among athletes and dancers.
ACL tears can occur if the lower leg extends forward too much.
PCL tears can occur when there is trauma that occurs to the knee such as when a player lands on a bent knee or the knee receives a forceful impact from the front.
Collateral ligament tears occur when the knees are forced sideways.
Mild tears to the meniscus, patellar tendon, or the ligaments often need time, rest, and physical therapy to help facilitate healing. The PRICE method also applies to mild tears and when done correctly, your knee should recover in no time.
However, complete tears are debilitating and would require a minimally invasive procedure like arthroscopic surgery to regain complete function.
In an arthroscopic surgery, your surgeon will make a small incision on your knee to insert a small camera called an arthroscope inside the joint in order to properly address and repair the torn meniscus, tendon, or ligament.
Recovering from knee injuries vary depending on the severity of the situation. A knee sprain can take a few weeks while an open fracture may take months. Regardless, supporting your body as it heals is the most important thing you can do.
Knee injuries and accidents are unpredictable, so it’s best to equip yourself with the proper knowledge and tools should the need arise.
Resting from any strenuous activity while you allow your knee to rehabilitate is key. Conservative treatments like the PRICE (Protect, Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate) method, taking NSAIDs (non-steroidal inflammatory drugs) like Ibuprofen, and physical therapy are effective methods to aid your recovery.
IceWraps.com has a wide range ofice packs and clay packs specifically made for your knees. These packs provide the cold therapy that you need to help get your knee back to tip-top shape.
With IceWraps.com, pain relief is just a click away!
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