The knee joint is a complex structure of bones, ligaments, muscles, cartilage and the joint capsule. This anatomy lends itself to a multiplicity of injuries ranging from ACL tears to sprains and strains. Direct trauma, as well as wear and tear, also contributes to some knee injuries, which usually require physiotherapy. Some of the more common knee injuries are discussed here.
ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury
The ACL is one of the main ligaments of the knee. With the PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) it helps to stabilise the knee joint. Therefore, a tear in the ACL can affect the stability of the joint. This type of knee injury occurs through a twisting force when the foot is firmly planted on the ground, or it can occur as a result of direct trauma during football tackle or rugby.
There may be an audible pop at the time of the injury, followed by knee pain, swelling and tenderness on the inner side of the knee. It may be difficult to walk or straighten the knee. With this type of knee injury, the athlete should stop the activity immediately and apply the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) protocol. Surgery is almost always needed, and physiotherapy may be started beforehand in order to strengthen the knee and reduce swelling. After surgery, more intense rehabilitation continues, which may last from 6 to 9 months. A knee brace is recommended for stability following surgery.
Jumpers knee, patella tendonitis, patella tendinopathy
These terms all mean the same thing, and refer to a knee injury that occurs in athletes who put a lot of strain on the knee joint when jumping or changing direction. The symptoms are knee pain when the kneecap is pressed, aching and stiffness and pain may be felt when you contract the quadriceps (the large muscles at the front of the upper leg). Many athletes ignore this injury because they feel they may have recovered after a short period of rest. However, it can become chronic if not treated. Therefore, you should see your physiotherapist for an evaluation as soon as possible.
The patella or kneecap is a protective bone at the front of the knee that assists the quadriceps in straightening the knee. It can become dislocated when it moves out of the groove in which it rests at the front of the thigh bone. This type of knee injury can occur through a sudden twisting movement or as a result of a blow to the knee. There may be an audible crack or pop and a feeling of the knee giving away. Pain, swelling and difficulty with mobility as well as obvious displacement of the kneecap are other symptoms. After the doctor has repositioned the patella, she will prescribe pain medications and rehabilitation to strengthen the muscles around the knee.
For these and any kind of knee injuries, please come in or give Physiohealth a call on (03) 9379 3716.