The knee is a complex joint. There are many different injuries that can occur during sports. The most predominant type of injuries to the knee is those done to the Meniscus and the ligaments. There are two areas of ligaments that are commonly affected; the Cruciate ligaments and the Collateral ligaments. Within the Cruciate ligaments, there are posterior and anterior injuries, and within the Collateral ligaments, there are medial and lateral injuries. It is very important that these injuries be taken seriously in athletics due to the seriousness of their affects on the knee.
One of the most commonly injured parts of the knee is the meniscus. The meniscus is a wedge-like rubbery cushion where the bones of your legs connect. The meniscal cartilage curves like the letter “c”, and helps the knee joint carry weight, glide and turn in many directions. This helps prevent the bones in the leg from grinding against each other.
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The two Menisci are easily injured by the force of rotating the knee while bearing weight. A partial or total tear can occur and the seriousness of the injury depends on the location of the tear.
When an athlete tears the meniscus he might experience a “popping” feeling, but he may still be able to continue playing. The following days after the tear the player will experience more pain accompanied by stiffness and swelling, tenderness in the joint line, and collection of fluid on the knee. Severe pain may occur if a fragment of the meniscus gets caught between the femur and tibia.
Treatment for a mild meniscus tear is basic. Using the “RICE” formula, rest, ice, compression, and elevation; the knee may be able to heal on its own.
Some doctors may recommend therapy to strengthen the muscle. If the tear does not heal on its own, repair may be necessary. Either through arthroscopic surgery or open surgery. These two surgeries will be performed to trim off the pieces of cartilage damaged by the injury.
Injuries to the Anterior and Posterior Cruciate Ligaments are generally referred to as sprains. The ACL, Anterior Cruciate Ligament, is usually stretched or torn while when the feet are pointed in one direction and the knees are turned in the opposite direction. The PCL, Posterior Cruciate Ligament, is usually injured by a direct blow to the area.
An injury to the cruciate ligament may not be painful but the athlete will hear a popping noise or the leg may buckle while standing.
If the ligament not completely torn, exercises can be done to strengthen the surrounding muscles, including the quadriceps and hamstrings, or the athlete may need to wear a knee brace during the activity to prevent further damage to the injured ligament thus allowing it to heal. For a torn ligament surgery is recommended followed by an intense four to six weeks of rehabilitation which if successful will allow the athlete to return to normal play.
An injury to the Medial Collateral Ligament usually occurs from a direct blow to the outer side of the knee which causes the ligaments on the inner side of the knee to stretch and tear. A Lateral Collateral Ligament would be the opposite as the medial where the direct blows occur from a direct blow to the inner side of the knee causing the stretching and tearing of the ligament in the outer side of the knee. The athlete will feel a pop and possible buckling of the knee sideways. Pain and swelling usually follow. This type of injury usually heals with ice and rest in addition to exercises. Within two to four weeks the athlete should be fully recovered.
It is very important for an athlete to protect his knees. Most injuries to the knee occur from a direct blow or from the twisting of the knee in the opposite direction that the feet are planted. In sports, these injuries are predominant and usually are of a serious nature. If these injuries happen to an athlete there is a large possibility that the athlete will have to undergo surgery which will put a hold on his activities for a short period of time. Following surgery, there is usually a prolonged time of rehabilitation that must occur before the athlete is able to return to any normal activity. Rehabilitation can last anywhere from two weeks to two months and usually is a very frustrating process. These two types of injuries to the ligaments and injuries to the meniscus must be taken very seriously in sports to prevent injuring the knee permanently.
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