Injuries to the knee can occur from simple falls, twisting events, sports activities, industrial accidents, and motor vehicle crashes. Within the knee, there are multiple structures that can be injured resulting in pain, swelling, instability, and loss of function. In general, injuries to the knee can be grouped in five categories:
– A fall or blunt trauma to the front of the knee can result in a fracture to the patella, upper region of the tibia or femur. A dislocation of the patella can also occur from a high impact injury
– An injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) can occur from either a contact or non-contact injury involving a twisting of the knee or hyperextension. The medial collateral ligament (MCL) can also be injured from a sports activity or other traumatic event in which a force is directed from the outside of the knee and sudden twisting.
– The menisci serve as a shock absorber for the knee and help stabilize the joint. Tears to the medial or lateral meniscus can arise from a traumatic event in which the knee gets twisted. Me-niscal tears also commonly are the result of degenerative wear and tear associated with aging. This is one of the most common complaints seen by an orthopaedic surgeon.
– There are several large muscle groups that surround the knee joint that can become injured if overstretched. A gastroc (calf) strain is one of the most common muscular injuries seen. This can result from a sudden acceleration (ex: running or jumping). This type of injury can also result from overuse.
– Tears to the quadriceps and/or patellar tendon can occur from falls, twisting events, and from blunt trauma to the front of the knee. Risk of this type of injury is higher in those greater than 40 years old who play sports that involve running or jumping.
Symptoms vary based on the type and nature of injury sustained. In some cases, patients can have mul-tiple types of injury to their knee. In general, knee pain, swelling, limited range of motion, and instability is common to most of these injuries.
Evaluation of these injuries should be performed by a trained orthopaedic surgeon.