Your knees are one of your body’s most important joints. Without a properly functioning knee it would be impossible, or at least very difficult, to stand, walk, run, or even sit down. Unfortunately, knees are often the first joint to be injured from sports or common wear and tear as a result of age.
The human knee is a fairly complex system of ligaments, tendons, bones, and cartilage, meaning there are many ways that it can be injured. The majority of knee injuries are a result of contact or impact heavy sports, and can require treatments ranging from rest and ice at home to full blown orthopedic surgery. In very serious cases a knee injury may require a total knee replacement surgery.
What are the most common types of knee injuries?
Let’s take a look:
- Fractures – Bone fractures in the knee are extremely common. The most commonly fractured or broken bone in the knee is the patella or kneecap, though the ends of the femur and tibia can also fracture as a result of knee trauma. Knee fractures can cause extreme pain and make it difficult or impossible to walk or stand. Generally knee fractures are caused as a result of high energy trauma like car accidents or a fall from a significant height.
- Dislocation – Dislocations are similar to fractures, but instead of the bone breaking or cracking, it is dislodged or misaligned from its normal placement. Dislocation can affect any of the bones in the knee with the most common cases involving the tibia and femur being forced out of alignment, or the patella being knocked out of place. While some dislocations are caused by abnormalities in a person’s knee structure, the majority of dislocations are related to high energy trauma, such as sports related contact or a car accident.
- Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries – Tearing your ACL is a very common sports-related knee injury. You may have heard about famous NFL or NBA players tearing their ACL and being out for a season. Generally an ACL tear is caused by rapidly changing direction, or landing incorrectly after a jump, making it a common injury for soccer, basketball, and football players. Often, ACL injuries occur alongside other knee injuries like twists and sprains. In serious cases ACL injury requires surgery to regain proper function.
- Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injuries – PCL tears are not as common as an ACL tear, but they do happen. Usually these injuries are only partial tears and have the potential to heal on their own with proper care. PCL injuries are usually a result of a blow to the front of the knee while it’s bent. They commonly occur as a result of sports-related contact or car accidents. In serious cases, a PCL tear may require knee arthroscopy surgery to correct.
- Collateral Ligament Injuries – The collateral ligaments run along either side of the knee joint holding the femur to the tibia and fibula. Tearing these ligaments is far less common than tearing an ACL or PCL, but in cases where the knee is pushed or bent sideways these ligaments are the first to be injured. These ligaments are usually torn when the knee experiences a direct blow to the outside of the knee, and are most often sports related.
- Meniscal Tears – There are two chunks of cartilage that sit between the points where the femur meets the tibia, this cartilage is referred to as the meniscus, or menisci (plural). Meniscal tears are common in sports, but can also result from old age as your menisci get weaker with age. Meniscal tears are generally sudden and result from twisting, pivoting, quick direction change, or being tackled. Sometimes in the elderly, all it takes is an awkward twist when standing up to cause a meniscal tear. Usually a torn meniscus can be treated non-surgically, but in cases where that doesn’t work, knee arthroscopy is a popular option for treatment.
- Tendon Tears – The two major tendons in the knee are the quadriceps and the patellar tendon. Normally these tendons are overstretched or torn by middle-aged people who play running or jumping sports. Generally these tendons are injured from falls, a direct blow to the knee, or landing awkwardly from a jump. Many times, small partial tears are treatable with non-surgical methods, but when there is a complete tear, surgical procedures are often required.
While this list doesn’t cover every knee injury, these are the most common injuries people experience. Sports-related knee injuries are incredibly common, and should be treated by an orthopedic professional like Dr. Bill Nordt in Richmond, VA.
Knee injuries can be very serious and if not treated properly can cause a lifetime of pain and difficulty walking. If you are suffering from a knee injury, make sure to contact your local orthopedic specialist today and get the treatment you need to get back on your feet.