The knee consists of 3 bones. The thigh bone (femur), the shin bone (tibia) and the kneecap (patella). The bones are connected by ligaments which hold the bones together and keep the knee stable. There are 2 collateral ligaments which run on the side of the knee, and 2 cruciate ligaments inside the knee.
Injuries to the knees are most often sports related, due to overuse as repeated movements can cause wear and tear to the tissue and ligament in the knees.
The most common injuries are:
- Ligament damage
- Tendon damage
- Cartilage damage
Ligament damage to the knees
There are three ligaments in the knee that can be damaged.
The first is the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). This ligament is positioned on the side of the knee and can be damaged from sharp twisting or turning of the knee, and are most common in football and netball players due to the nature of the sport.
You may experience a popping sound, your knee may feel unstable and you may have swelling and pain.
Depending on the severity of your damaged ACL, you may be offered surgery. If you require surgery, it usually consists of stitching the tendon back together or taking a graft of another tendon such as a hamstring tendon and placing it on your damaged ACL.
Recovery from ACL surgery can take several weeks to months, and you will be given physiotherapy to help aid your recovery.
Other types of ligament damage to the knees are collateral ligament injury, which is often treated with rest or by wearing a brace to stabilise the knee during recovery. However, a significant tear would need reconstructive surgery.
Lastly, posterior cruciate ligament injury usually responds to physiotherapy, but again like the other two, if it is significantly torn then surgery may be required.
Knee tendon damage
Tendons can easily become damaged through sports or activities that involve a lot of jumping. The most common knee tendon injury is to the quadriceps tendon, the tendon that connects the kneecap to the thigh muscle. A partial tear may respond well to rest and by supporting the knee with a brace, whereas a significant tear may need to be repaired surgically.
Cartilage functions as a cushion between the bones, as well as a stabiliser for the joint. The most common injury to the knee cartilage is a meniscus tear. This can often happen when playing sports that involve twisting. The meniscus wears with age and is more likely to tear the older you are. The tendon may repair on its own with rest and support, however a particularly large tear may need surgery.
Breakages to the knee bone
Like any other bone, the 3 bones in the knee can suffer from fractures. Fractures to the patella (knee cap) are common as the bone sits on top of the knee joint as a protective shield, meaning it can fracture if you fall or have direct impact on the area. Surgery may be required if the bone needs stabilising.
Dislocation of the knee
A dislocated kneecap is when the bone slips out of place, usually as a result of direct impact or a sudden change in movement and twisting of the knee. Often, your doctor can manipulate the kneecap back into place. If there is a fracture or associated ligament or tendon injury then surgery may be considered.
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