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Sports Injuries to the Knee

The knee is the most injured joint in the body. The main reason for this is because it is between the two longest bones in the body and the lever arms from the length of these bones creates a strong force through the joint. When you land awkwardly while moving fast or sustain impact during sports these forces can damage the knee.

Sports injuries can be broadly divided into two categories: acute injuries, where something tears or breaks and chronic injuries usually from over-use or incorrect training techniques.

Acute Injuries

If the knee swells immediately following an incident it is likely something has torn or a piece cartilage or bone has broken. This is usually a serious injury and accompanied by loss of function (unable to continue the sport) and pain. We’d recommend rest, ice and elevation (RICE) followed by advice from a health professional.

If the knee is stiff, painful and swollen the following day this is usually a less serious problem and immediate assessment/treatment is not urgent. If this happens repeatedly despite RICE, advice from a health professional is recommended and an xray and/or an MRI scan may be indicated.

Chronic Injuries

Iliotibial Band Syndrome – this is very common in runners and cyclists. It causes a dull pain on the outside of the knee when exercising. It usually comes on after a few minutes and may get so painful it will stop you exercising.  It is often on both sides

Anterior Knee Pain Syndrome – another very common condition in athletes of all ages. The pain is at the front of the knee worse when descending stairs, running downhill, cycling out of the saddle. It is often accompanied by a crunching or ‘sandpaper’-type noise when get up from a squat. It can be caused by a plethora of different problems including chondromalaciae patella (softening of the cartilage behind the kneecap).

Osgood-Schlatters Disease – this is a condition in teenagers which usually settles once the growing cycle has finished but can be very frustrating for an aspiring athlete. It causes pain at the hard bone prominence right in the middle at the top of the shin bone (the tibia). It happens when the bone is growing and excessive forces through the patella tendon pull the growing bone away from the rest of the tibia.

Hoffa’s Fat Pad Impingement – this condition has only recently been recognised. Inside the knee is a large structure called Hoffa’s fat pad the function of which is largely unknown. As the knee moves the edge of it can get caught in the moving parts causing ‘pinching’ of the tissue and pain.  The first line of treatment for this is usually a steroid injection but a small operation (an arthroscopy) to remove the pinching area is often indicated for resistant cases.

There are many other chronic injuries that can affect the knee in athletes. If you want to ask a specific question please click here or book an appointment today.