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5 Most Common Knee Injuries and Treatments for Athletes

By BioXcellerator

As someone who lives an active lifestyle, any injury takes time away from doing what you love. Athletes, in particular, are more likely to experience injuries playing sports, such as knee injuries, no matter how carefully you stretch, train, or perform. When experiencing common knee injuries in sports, it is essential to pay attention and seek the knee pain treatment you need to get back in tip-top shape. 

Five most common knee injuries in sports 

Whether it's from overuse or direct trauma, knee pain can easily keep you on the sidelines. Here are the five most common knee injuries, their causes, and treatment options to help you get back in the game.

Patellar fracture

One of the most common knee injuries in sports is the patellar fracture or a break in the kneecap. This fracture can occur after a fall directly onto the kneecap, after experiencing a direct blow, or after forceful contractions of the quadriceps muscle.

The most common symptoms of a patellar fracture include swelling and pain in front of the knee, bruising, inability to walk and inability to straighten the leg or extend it in a raised position. 

Treatment options

During a doctor's examination, the medical professional will feel your kneecap for the edges of the fracture and schedule an x-ray. They will also check for hemarthrosis or a pooling of blood in the joint space which causes painful swelling. 

  • Aspiration - The doctor may choose to drain the blood to help alleviate some pain. 
  • Cast or splint - This will help keep your leg straight and prevent motion as the bones heal back together.
  • Surgery - If your fracture is displaced (bones not aligned) or comminuted (three or more bone pieces)
  • Replacement - Only in very severe cases when the patella is completely crushed into unusable pieces
  • Orthobiologic treatments - Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) or stem cell therapies to regenerate new healthy tissue to aid healing.

Depending on the severity of your injury, some treatments will be the only option, while others are more complimentary.

Knee dislocation

Knee dislocation is another knee injury for athletes but is quite rare. It occurs when the knee's ligaments are torn during a traumatic event, such as a fall or other high-speed injury, but it can also occur with a wrong step or twist of the leg. Tearing of the ligaments in the knee and misalignment of bones in the knee allows the thigh bone (femur) to become disconnected from the shin bone (tibia and fibula). 

Symptoms of a knee dislocation include severe pain, a deformed knee, and irregularities in the line of the leg. Some people may experience no feeling below the knee. In 50% of cases, the knee will relocate itself, causing fluid to build up in the knee, which is incredibly painful. 

Relocating your knee without professional care can lead to deep vein thrombosis or damage to the nerves or vascular system of the knee. 

Treatment options 

After the injury, icing your knee may help with pain and alleviate some swelling, but it is vital that you visit an emergency room immediately. Once there, doctors can relocate your knee and examine the injury. 

X-rays or a CT will often be taken since fractures occur in about 60% of dislocation cases. The doctor will check for vascular damage with an x-ray of the artery (arteriogram) or Doppler ultrasound. The doctor will also examine you for nerve injuries.

If the doctor is unable to relocate your knee or if there is extensive damage to your ligaments, cartilage, or meniscus, surgery may be required, either through a small incision with a lighted camera (arthroscopy) or a more invasive open surgery. 

To avoid surgery or reliance on pain medications, you may also try ortho biological treatments such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) or stem cell therapies. 

Bursitis

There are small, slippery, fluid-filled sacs in your knee, called bursae, which help reduce friction and cushion points where your knee bones and tendons, muscles, and skin rub together. When these bursae become inflamed, the bursa lining thickens and collects excess fluid, a condition called bursitis. Most often, bursitis in the knee occurs over the kneecap, but it can also occur on the inner side of your knee below the knee joint. 

Most cases of bursitis in the knee are gradual, a result of friction, irritation, and pressure of the bursa that comes from jobs or activities that require frequent kneeling on hard surfaces. Bursitis can occur from overuse and strenuous activity, such as running or squatting. However, a traumatic blow to the knee can also cause bursitis, such as the blows experienced in wrestling, football, and volleyball. 

Most commonly, bursitis symptoms include the formation of a lump at the front of the knee that feels like a water balloon. Your knee may be tender, stiff, and painful. If you experience pain in addition to skin that is warm to the touch, fever, and fatigue, you may have an infected bursa or septic bursitis; this is a serious condition that needs immediate medical attention.

Treatment options 

Bursitis can often be treated by resting and elevating the joint, icing the knee, and taking an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. You may need to wear a knee wrap to help keep swelling down. In severe cases, your doctor may use a needle to drain the fluid from your knee (aspiration) or they may decide to give you a steroid injection to ease inflammation. 

You might be referred to a physical therapist to learn stretches and exercises that will make your knee stronger and more flexible. 

Tendonitis

A frequent knee injury among athletes is tendonitis, also called patellar tendonitis, which is inflammation of the tendon that connects your kneecap (patella) to your shinbone (tibia). Inflammation is caused by small tears in the tendon that occur due to overuse or repetitive stress on the knee. 

Symptoms of patellar tendonitis include pain above or below the kneecap, particularly pain that recurs with certain activities yet goes away with rest and swelling. In some severe cases, the pain can be constant despite rest and can even disturb your sleep. 

Treatment options 

Treatment for tendonitis usually consists of limiting activity, icing the area, using over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen, and wearing a supportive knee brace or wrap. 

Typically, tendonitis resolves itself within a few weeks or months. If you are experiencing stubborn or severe pain, a doctor may prescribe pain relievers or corticosteroid injections, as well as physical therapy. 

Knee ligament injuries

Sprains or tears of the knee ligaments, the tough bands of tissue that help connect your bones, are common sports injuries. The knee has four ligaments that are most commonly injured: 

  • The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) connects the femur to the tibia. It controls the rotation and forward movement of the shin. 
  • The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) also links the femur to the tibia, controlling the backward movement of the tibia. 
  • The lateral collateral ligament (LCL) helps stabilize the outer knee by connecting the femur to the fibula, the smaller bone in the back of your lower leg. 
  • The medial collateral ligament (MCL) helps stabilize your inner knee by connecting the femur to the fibula. 

The ACL is the most commonly injured ligament and is often injured by a stretching or tearing of the ligament during a sudden twisting motion. It is commonly seen in skiing, basketball, and football. The PCL is much more rarely injured and occurs after a sudden, direct impact on the knee, such as from a football tackle. 

MCL and LCL injuries most often occur after a direct blow to the outside of the knee, such as blows experienced while playing football and hockey. 

Symptoms of a ligament sprain or tear vary between persons but may include sudden and severe pain, a loud pop or snapping sound, swelling in the first 24 hours, a loose feeling in the joint, and an inability to put any weight on the joint. 

Treatment options 

When you see a doctor for treatment for your knee ligament injury, a doctor will examine your injury, schedule an x-ray to check for any bone damage and an MRI to assess ligament damage. 

Arthroscopy is often used to determine damage or disease to a joint. This is a minimally invasive procedure in which a small, lighted camera is inserted into the joint through a small incision. 

Most MCL or LCL injuries can heal on their own with rest, ice, compression, elevation, anti-inflammatory medications, and a knee brace. Surgery will not be required for mild or moderate knee ligament injuries.

For ACL and PCL injuries that have torn completely or stretched to the point of no return, reconstructive knee surgery is the only option for those who want to live pain-free or return to athletic performance. Surgery is complicated and recovery is lengthy, so this option should be discussed with your doctor. 

Stem cell therapy for knee injuries

With any knee injury, a loss of mobility is possible. BioXcellerator stem cell therapy is a treatment option that can complement or replace traditional treatment methods altogether. An experimental and regenerative medicine concept, BioXcellerator's innovative stem cell therapy can help athletes feel younger, healthier, and more mobile when it comes to the treatment of common knee injuries. 

Speak with a patient advocate to learn more about how stem cell therapy works and if it's the right treatment for you.

What are stem cell treatments and how can they help you?

Download this eBook and learn how stem cell regenerative therapy offers the power of your own body to fight disease, improve mobility and rejuvenate.

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