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The knee joint is one of the largest and most complex joints in the body. It is also one of the most important joints. Connecting the thigh bone to the shinbone, it plays an important role in supporting the body’s weight, and facilitating movement –allowing you to bend your knee.
Due to the complexity of the knee joint, it is susceptible to a number of different injuries. Some of the most common knee joint injuries include tears in the ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. The kneecap itself can also be fractured or dislocated.
Let’s look at some of the most common knee injuries. See how they are caused and the treatment that’s required to address them.
The kneecap (patella) is a shield for your knee joint, and protects it from becoming injured or damaged during a fall. Because of this, the kneecap can become broken during a high impact fall or sports injury.
Kneecap fractures are a common yet serious injury that usually requires immobilization or in some cases surgery to correct.
Knee dislocations occur when the knee bones become out of place. This can occur after a major trauma such as a fall, car crash, or high-speed impact. It can also be caused by twisting the knee while one foot is firmly planted on the ground.
Dislocations require relocation. Sometimes the kneecap will spontaneously correct itself and return to the proper position. Other cases will require a mild sedative to allow the doctor to relocate the knee without causing too much discomfort. It generally takes about six weeks to fully heal from a dislocated knee.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is knee tissue that joins the upper and lower leg bones together and helps keep the knee stable.
The ACL can be torn if the lower leg extends forward too much or if the leg becomes twisted. ACL injuries are one of the most common types of knee injuries and account for about 40 percent of all sports-related injuries.
An ACL injury can range from a small tear in the ligament to a severe injury –when the ligament completely tears or becomes separated from the bone itself.
Treatment options for ACL injuries depend on the extent of the injury. Not all ACL injuries require surgery, however depending on various factors including the severity of the tear, surgery may be required. Physical rehabilitation is often recommended after an ACL injury.
Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
The posterior cruciate ligament connects the femur bone to the shinbone and keeps the shinbone from moving too far back. As the name suggests, this ligament is located at the back of the knee.
A posterior cruciate ligament injury occurs when trauma occurs to the knee –this can happen in sports when the player lands on a bent knee. If the damage is only to the posterior cruciate ligament –then treatment is generally non-surgical. But if there are a combination of injuries such as a dislocated knee and multiple torn ligaments, then surgery may be required.
Collateral Ligament Injuries
The collateral ligament is one of the four major ligaments in the knee.
A collateral ligament injury is a common sports-related injury. This ligament can easily be torn when the lower leg is forced sideways.
Surgery may not be required if the collateral ligament has been torn. However, if other structures in the knee are injured at the same time then surgery is generally recommended.
The meniscus is the piece of cartilage between the knee joint that helps absorb the shock that occurs when running or playing sports. The pieces help cushion the joint and keep it stable.
Unfortunately though, meniscus tears are common in sports that require jumping –like volleyball and soccer, as well as contact sports like football. When a person changes direction suddenly while running, the meniscus can tear.
Surgery may be required, depending on the extent of the injury and severity of the tear.
The tendon in the knee, known as the patellar tendon –works together with the knee muscles in the front of the thigh to help straighten the leg. While tears in the patellar tendon are most common among middle-aged people and those who play running or jumping sports –it is possible for anyone to tear their tendon.
A complete tear is considered a disabling injury and requires surgery to regain complete function. However most tears are only partial tears and require rest and physical therapy to help facilitate healing.
If you have experienced a knee injury or are experiencing knee pain, it’s important to see an orthopedic specialist as soon as possible. Your orthopedist will be able to make a diagnosis and recommend treatment options to help get you back on track as soon as possible.