5 Signs To Tell If You Have a Serious Knee Injury?

5 Signs To Tell If You Have a Serious Knee Injury?

Your knee twists and you have swelling and pain.  You are struck by another player and have bruising, but no swelling.  Are these serious knee injuries?   As an active athlete or competitor you know that knee injuries are common. Both contact and non-contact knee injuries can be serious. This post will cover 5 signs that you may have a serious knee injury.  In general, the most common and worrisome finding is immediate, significant swelling.  In most cases that should prompt a call to a doctors office.

Even though most of the injuries I see in the office turn out to be mild,  it is important for you to know what the warning signs are to look for a potentially severe knee injury.

Swelling in the knee immediately or shortly after an injury is a common sign that indicates you may have sustained a serious knee injury.  In many cases the swelling is actually blood.  The bleeding will stop, but the swelling will remain.  Common causes of swelling after a serious knee injury include a tear of the ACL, a patella dislocation, a meniscus tear, an MCL tearor an injury to the articular cartilage.  OVer 80% of athletes who felt a pop while running and pivoting  and developed blood in the knee will have either an ACL tear or a patella dislocation.  Most will find it very difficult to walk without severe pain.  Crutches are very useful in these cases.

If you had a knee injury and you are not able to fully straighten the leg, you may have a locked knee.  The most common cause of a locked knee is a unique meniscus tear called a bucket handle tear.  A bucket handle tear is considered a serious knee injury and will usually require surgery to fix the tear.  The reason these tears are serious is that a large piece of the meniscus tears, flips over and becomes stuck in the middle of the knee joint. We discuss bucket handle tears here.  Not all locked knees will be found to have a bucket handle tear.  Especially in older athletes, a flap tear, or other differenttypes of meniscus tears typically occur.

If you felt or heard a pop as you twisted or turned to avoid another player then you may have torn your ACL.  If you felt or heard a loud pop in your knee you probably have a serious knee injury.  Most ACL injuries are non-contact injuries.  A running back turning to head upfield.   A striker moving laterally to avoid the defense.  These are common stories when we see high school and college athletes who have torn their ACL.   This post dives further into the immediate management of suspected ACL injuries.

Ongoing weakness when trying to straighten the knee, even a few days after the injury could mean that you suffered a serious injury.   Common causes of weakness include patella dislocations, patella tendons tears and quadriceps tears.  Patella tendon and quadriceps tendon injuries are not common in youth or collegiate sports, but active sports docs see a few each year.   For older weekend warriors who are wondering why their knee is weak after a serious injury, patella tendon and quadriceps tendon injuries are far more common.

Patella dislocations occur mostly in younger athletes.  Most patella dislocations occur when the knee is bent, the athlete is twisting and then they are struck in their leg.  The patella will usually snap back into place but the damage is done.  Any suspected patella dislocation should be evaluated by a sports medicine physician since patella dislocations can cause injuries to the cartilage or the ligaments which hold the patella in place.

Of course, many knee injuries make it painful and hard to walk.  For people with serious knee injuries it is usually very hard to walk.  You will usually need to be helped off the field and require crutches.  Anyone who is placed on crutches should be considered to have a serious knee injury until you are evaluated by an Orthopedic Surgeon.  In many of these cases an urgent X-ray is useful to rule out a fracture if the athlete can not put any weight on the knee.

Knee injuries are common across all sports.  Most knee injuries are not serious and the athlete can expect to return to play relatively soon.   Identifying the severe knee injury and acting quickly can make the all the difference when it comes to getting you back in the game and minimizing your risk of further damage.

Images Powered by Shutterstock