Knee injuries are very common, especially among athletes. In 2010, over 10 million people visited the doctor due to knee pain or injury. In fact, from 2005-2015, the rate of ACL injuries in children and teens increased almost 148 percent. So, what is the reason behind these escalating numbers and why is this injury becoming more and more common?
The knee is made up of a variety of important structures, including bones, ligaments, cartilage, and tendons. When any of these structures becomes injured, whether through sports or any kind of accident, it can cause mild to severe pain and swelling. Here are the most common knee injuries reported across the U.S.
Fractures can occur in any of the bones around the knee. The most common is the patella (kneecap), although the ends of the tibia (shinbone) and femur (thighbone) can also be fractured. Knee fractures are often caused by high-energy trauma, such as a car accident, bad fall, sports injury, or any other sharp blow to the knee.
Dislocations occur when the bones around the knee get partially or completely shifted out of place. If the femur and tibia are pushed out of alignment, it can cause the patella to also slide out of position. Although most dislocations are caused by accidents or other traumatic injuries, some people are simply born with abnormal knee structures.
Cruciate Ligament Injuries
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a crucial structure in the knee that runs down the front of the patella. It provides stability to the joint and is usually quite a serious injury when torn. It is most commonly injured or torn during sporting events, and athletes who participate in soccer, basketball, football, and track, are at a higher risk of injury. Injuries to the ACL can occur when jumping incorrectly, when changing directions quickly, or when another part of the knee has been injured. In fact, half of ACL injuries occur alongside damage to another part of the knee, including the articular cartilage or meniscus.
The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is located towards the back of the knee, connecting the femur to the tibia. This injury is often caused by a direct blow to the front of the knee while it is bent and typically heals on its own.
Meniscal tears are another common sports injury. The meniscus acts as a cushion between the femur and tibia, similar to the articular cartilage. A tear in the meniscus can be caused by twisting, pivoting, cutting, or being tackled on the field. This type of injury can also occur due to arthritis or aging. Simply twisting or getting out of bed in the morning could cause a tear if the meniscus has been weakened over time.
Tendon tears occur when either the quadriceps or patellar tendons are torn or stretched. The quadriceps tendon connects the thigh muscle to the patella, and the patellar tendons connect the patella to the tibia. These injuries can happen to anyone, however, it is most common in middle-aged individuals who participate in sports that involve jumping or running. Falling or landing awkwardly from a jump can result in a tendon tear.
How to Treat a Knee Injury
When a knee injury occurs, it is best to immediately start the RICE method, which consists of rest, ice, gentle compression, and elevation. Some knee injuries can heal at home with proper care, or with the help of a physical therapist. Depending on the severity of the injury, particularly if a fracture or ACL tear is involved, you may require an orthopedic surgeon if you experience any of the following:
- Severe pain
- A popping noise
If you have suffered a blow to the knee, or any other form of sports injury, contact the experts at Woodlands Sports Medicine Centre today at 281-367-0400.