Knee Injuries

November 12, 2012

Knee Injuries

Knee injuries are probably one of the most common joint complaints among the average population. It is an easy joint to damage as it is a complex joint with many parts that are susceptible to injury. In 2003, around 19 and a half million people visited the doctor over a bad knee, and knee complaints were the most popular reason for visiting orthopaedic surgeons. The knee is that largest joint in the body, and joins the thigh bone with the shin bone. The “patella” (more commonly called the knee cap) slots into a groove on the end of the thigh bone (femur) and is surrounded by large ligaments as well as an important wedge of spongy cartilage. Both of these help with movement by acting as sort of suspension mechanisms and supporting the knee against any jolts, abnormalities or shocks. Many knee injuries can be healed with rest and physiotherapy. Others however may require surgery to fix an underlying problem or excessive damage. It is common for people who are heavily involved in athletics to injure their knees due to the large amount of shock they place on their knees when running or jumping. This is especially the case if jumping on very hard ground such as concrete. Ligaments can easily be torn, resulting in very painful knee injuries that can take many weeks to heal – longer than a clean break through a bone! There are four main ligaments in the knee – the anterior cruciate, the medical collateral, the posterior cruciate and the lateral collateral. The most commonly injured ligament is the anterior cruciate – this is the ligament that keeps the tibia and femur aligned. Pressure is often placed on this ligament during twisting or bending actions.

If you hear a popping noise, or experience sharp pain in your knee and cannot walk properly as a result, you should go and see a doctor immediately. Walking on knee injuries can cause long-term and irreparable damage.

So how can you get knee injuries? Depending on which ligament you injure, they can be acquired in a variety of ways:

  1. Anterior Cruciate injury: these, as we have discussed, are the most common type of knee injury. They can be caused by landing from a jump, slowing your speed while running, or changing direction quickly.

  2. Medical Collateral injury: usually these are as a result of a direct blow to the knee, such as a football hitting it or being kicked.

  3. Posterior Cruciate injury: these, like the MCL injury, are sustained by receiving a blow to the knee in a lot of cases. However, the blow must be to the front of the knee to cause damage to this ligament. Injuries can also be sustained to this ligament by taking a simple misstep, so care should always be taken especially during participation in sports.

  4. Damage to Cartilage: people often talk of having a “torn cartilage”. When they speak of the cartilage, they are referring to the meniscus, which is a wedge of spongy cartilage that is fastened to the ligaments in your knee and acts as a shock absorber.

If you think you have injured your knee, make sure you rest and use ice and compression. Elevate your knee to calm any swelling that has occurred. These steps can easily be remembered using the acronym “RICE” – Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.

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