It’s not surprising that knee injuries are among the most common sports injuries we diagnose and treat here at Sports Medicine Oregon in Tigard and Wilsonville, Oregon. As the body’s most versatile weight-bearing joints, your knees are made to perform well under pressure — but they’re also prone to a wide range of injuries.
Whether you’ve injured your knee on the field or during daily activities, taking the right steps — right away — can help you heal more quickly, recover more completely, and prevent future joint instability and injury recurrence.
Here, our expert orthopedists discuss common knee injuries and explain what you should do to ensure your post-injury life isn’t hampered by continuing knee pain and limited mobility.
Common knee joint injuries
Any part of your knee joint and its supporting structures can sustain an injury. Like other joint injuries, knee trauma and damage can range in severity from minor and quick-healing to serious and in need of prompt professional care — and sometimes surgery.
Common knee injuries include:
Sudden twisting motions or excessive force on the knee joint caused by plant-and-pivot moves in sports, repeated jumping, or coming to a fast stop while running can stretch or tear your knee’s stabilizing ligaments. A torn knee ligament can bleed into your knee and cause swelling, pain, and joint laxity.
Situated in the center of the joint, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most frequent knee ligament injury. A ruptured ACL can’t heal on its own and may require reconstructive surgery.
The muscles that support your knees (hamstrings and quadriceps) are attached to the joints with tendons. Overstretched tendons can tear, bleed, and cause pain and swelling, but they tend to heal with conservative care and rarely require surgery.
Menisci, or the two crescent-shaped strips of cartilage on either side of the knee joint, help absorb shock and distribute weight across the joint. A split or torn meniscus is among the most common knee injuries, and it often occur during severe impact or twisting motions, especially during weight-bearing exercise. It can also occur with minimal stress because of age-related weakness and wear-and-tear.
A torn meniscus can cause pain, swelling, joint “catching” or locking, and a limited range of motion. This knee injury can’t heal on its own and often requires surgical repair.
Common in people who have jobs that require them to kneel frequently, prepatellar bursitis causes pain and swelling across the front of the knee when the prepatellar bursa — a fluid-filled cushioning sac between your kneecap and your skin — becomes irritated and inflamed. Knee bursitis is an overuse injury that can often be resolved with conservative care.
Patellofemoral pain syndrome
Also called “runner’s knee,” patellofemoral pain syndrome causes pain behind the kneecap that worsens with intense exercise, descending stairs, or long stretches of sitting. Caused by an imbalance between the hamstrings and quadriceps, this overuse injury irritates the joint’s cartilage and triggers pain.
Immediate first aid for knee pain
Early action following a knee injury or at the onset of unexplained knee pain can help set the stage for optimal healing and a speedier recovery. In most cases, this means implementing the RICE protocol right away:
- Rest: Stop your activity and avoid putting weight on your injured knee
- Ice: Apply cold packs to your knee for 20 minutes, several times a day
- Compression: Lightly swath the injured joint in a soft bandage
- Elevation: To ease inflammation, elevate your injured knee while resting
If you sustain a knee injury in a game, never play through the pain. Instead, stop your activity and begin RICE therapy. While many minor knee injuries can heal fully and with this basic technique, moderate to severe knee injuries typically require expert evaluation and care to heal properly and recover completely.
Expert care for knee injuries
If you’re still experiencing knee pain after a few days of conservative care following what you initially thought was a minor injury, it’s time to see our orthopedic team for a comprehensive assessment.
You should seek expert evaluation and care as soon as possible if you:
- Can’t move your knee
- Have severe knee pain
- Can’t walk without limping
- Experience joint swelling at any time
- Heard a popping noise when the injury occurred
- Felt your knee give out when the injury happened
Seeing an orthopedist helps ensure you get the treatment you need to foster complete healing and restored stability for pain-free movement. It also helps ensure you receive the rehabilitative care you need to stay active and prevent future injury recurrence.
If you have questions about knee injury diagnosis, treatment, or prevention, our experienced orthopedic team can help. Call or click online to schedule an appointment at Sports Medicine Oregon in Tigard or Wilsonville, Oregon, today.