The knee is one of the joints most prone to injury. Its structure and many components put it at risk of many types of injuries. Often this can result in chronic knee pains and loss of function, with the end result of early knee arthritis.
Commonly in sports injuries, a knee injury happens suddenly as a result of the knee being hit, fallen on, twisted or moved beyond its intended range of motion. Sudden knee injuries are common among athletes and may result in tears to one of three major ligaments of the knee – the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) or posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) – or the menisci, crescent-shaped wedges of cartilage within the knee.
The following are some of the more common knee injuries:
The Meniscii are C-shaped specialized cartilage within the knee joint which help in load distribution. Menisci can be torn when the knee is bent and then twisted, such as turning to hit a tennis ball. During contact sports injuries, often the ligaments can be torn together with the meniscii. Meniscal injuries increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis years later.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament and Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
These specialized ligaments are located within the knee joint. They function to stabilize the tibia bone and prevent abnormal anterior and posterior movement of the tibia. A sudden twisting motion or change in direction can lead to injury of the anterior cruciate ligament, whereas the posterior cruciate ligament is more likely to be damaged from direct impact, such as being tackled in football. The anterior cruciate ligament is the ligament most commonly injured, especially in sports such as soccer or skiing.
The knee is surrounded by a range of muscles and tendons which insert around the knee joint. Their job is to provide stability and strength to the knee. Tendon injuries can range from inflammation (tendinitis) to ruptures, they result from overuse or over-stretching of the tendon. Tendon injuries often can heal with the right rehabilitation follow-up and supplementation.
Some injuries to the knee can lead to inflammation of the bursae, small fluid-filled sacs that normally cushion the knee and reduce friction between the joint and surrounding ligaments and tendons. Injury to bursa can lead to swelling, warmth, pain and stiffness. Treatment includes Corticosteroid injection therapies as well as rehabilitation techniques and avoidance of inciting factors.
Usually affecting preteen and young teenage boys, this condition is caused by repetitive stress on the upper area of the tibia, where the bone is growing. In children with this condition, the patellar tendon (which connects the knee cap and tibia) becomes inflamed and may even tear away from the tibia.
This occurs when an injury causes the patella, or kneecap, to move out of position. The movement of the kneecap is always visible and, often, intensely painful. This is seen often in teenage girls and during traumatic sports injuries such as hockey, soccer or skiing.
Iliotibial band syndrome
This syndrome occurs when a band of tissue rubs against the outer portion of your femur (thigh bone), causing sharp, burning pain on the outer side of the knee. Although this can result from a direct injury to the knee, often the cause is the stress of long-term use, such as long-distance running.
While the causes for knee injuries are varied and different, often the end result of improperly diagnosed or treated knee injuries is early knee arthritis and cartilage degeneration. Knee arthritis occurs when the cartilage of the knee joint is worn away. This can occur either via abnormal mechanical stress to the cartilage (such as in cases of meniscal tears or cruciate ligament tears) or in cases of chronic inflammation from inflammatory arthritis such as gout or rheumatoid arthritis.
With regards to sports injuries, the most common cause for early arthritis in sportsmen would be Meniscal tears or ligament injuries such as ACL or PCL injuries. These injuries cause a loss of the normal stability of the knee joint and result in a low level of chronic abnormal shearing forces of the cartilage base of the knee joint. Often there is also a component of inflammation due to minute loose bodies which trigger the inflammation cascade and result in the progressive wearing away of the cartilage in the knee joint.
At INLIVEN MEDICAL, our aim is to treat the acute stage for all knee injuries early and with all the tools at our disposal. These will range from injections, knee braces, as well as rehabilitation techniques to maintain knee strength and flexibility. Only in cases where surgery would be of a definite advantage would we refer the patient to our affiliated surgeons to have a surgical repair. This provides patients with an ideal comprehensive treatment for their sports injuries so as to allow excellent recuperation and avoidance of future knee arthritis.