Whether you play sport socially or professionally, a knee injury can cause significant pain and dysfunction. Acute knee injuries are one of the most common sporting injuries seen by Physiotherapists, and they can often mean a long break from sporting activity.
There are three main tissue types that can generally be injured in the knee – muscles, ligaments and cartilage (or menisci).
Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that stabilise the knee joint. There are four main ligaments in the knee (shown below) – the Lateral Collateral, the Medial Collateral, and the Anterior and Posterior Cruciates. Each of these ligaments are vital in preventing excessive motion at the knee joint. Extreme movement can cause the ligament fibres to tear, causing pain and instability. Severe tears to the Cruciate ligaments may require reconstructive surgery.
Knee Cartilage (or “Menisci”) also help to stabilise and protect the knee. They are situated between the 2 bones of the knee. Twisting and turning, such as a sudden change in direction whilst playing football, can tear the cartilage. This will cause pain, swelling and occasionally locking up of the knee joint.
Many acute knee injuries can be treated without surgery by Physiotherapists, and rehabilitation will often involve early rest, followed by strength and flexibility retraining. If the damage is severe, you may be referred to a surgeon for an assessment.
Prevention is always better than cure – to help prevent knee injuries you should:
- always warm up
- build your exercise program gradually
- vary activities to balance muscle development
- maintain good general fitness and strength