A knee injury can be painful to experience and recover from. Depending on the type of injury, it can take weeks to months to recover and in some cases, the knee may never be the same again. The knee itself is a joint, but surrounding the joint are muscles, tendons, and ligaments, all of which can be damaged from impact or trauma, resulting in injury.
When a knee injury is the result of stretched or torn ligaments, it is also called a sprain. There are four ligaments in the knee area connecting the femur to the tibia. An injury resulting from the tearing of one of these ligaments is categorized by the type of ligament sprain. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) is found along the inside of the knee. The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is found along the outside of the knee, keeping the outer part of the knee stable. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) connects the femur and tibia at the center of the knee and controls rotation and forward motion. An ACL injury is common in athletes. Lastly, the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is found at the back of the knee.
A sprain may be evident by a popping or snapping noise, pain in the knee, swelling, or the inability to put weight on the leg. Similar symptoms result from strains, which is a type of injury that results from partially or completely tearing a muscle or tendon that surrounds the knee.
In addition to a sprain or strain, both of which are common injuries, other knee problems like tendinitis — or inflammation of the tendons, fractures, and dislocations are possible. A fracture involves broken, cracked, or even shattered bone and is diagnosed with X-ray imaging. The knee can also suffer cartilage injury, which involves a small piece of cartilage breaking off the end of a bone.
An individual can also suffer from arthritis in the knee, or inflammation of the knee joint. Sometimes this inflammation is acute, or short-term, and is the result of injury. In some cases, it is a chronic problem, and is the result of a permanent condition rather than a specific injury.
To avoid knee injury during physical activity, it is important to follow sports medicine guidelines and properly stretch the muscles and tendons before and after physical activity. Orthopedic and sports medicine doctors can treat these injuries. Treatment will vary from keeping the knee wrapped tightly to decrease mobility while the injury heals to surgery. The type of treatment obviously depends on the type and severity of the injury.
If you hurt your knee and have symptoms such as swelling, immobility and pain, or you hear a pop or snap, see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.