Knee Sprain & Ligament Injuries: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

What is Knee Sprain ?

Knee sprain happens when one of more knee-sprainligaments gets stretched or torn away due to sudden blow or injury. Sprain occurs in any joint such as wrist ankle and knee. Knee sprain is one of the most common sprains in the body.

Knee is comprised of  four important ligaments, which are made of tough fibrous tissues. They help us in walking, turning, stopping, pivoting and twisting. They connect and hold the upper leg and lower leg bones at the knee joint. They support and create stability to the knee.

Types of  Ligament Tears or Knee Sprain:

  1. ACL Tear Or Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tear: ACL provides stability in the knee. ACL tear is one of the most common knee injury, which affects more than 100000 people every year. Women are more affected with ACL tear than men. Individuals or athletes involved in football, basketball, soccer, rugby, wrestling, gymnastics and skiing are most vulnerable to ACL tear.
  2. PCL Tear Or Posterior Cruciate Ligament Tear: PCL also stabilizes knee along with ACL and the tear only happens after a sudden and power blow to the knee such as in the case of car accident or landing awkwardly on the knee in sports. Individuals or athletes involved in football, basketball, soccer and rugby are mostly prune to PCL tear.
  3. MCL Tear Or Medial Collateral Ligament Tear: MCL is located inside of the knee and supports the inner side of knee. It will only get torn, when person receive blow to the side of knee in standing position. It is one of the most common collateral ligament tears happens in soccer, football, skiing, wrestling, rugby, hockey, etc.
  4. LCL Tear Or Lateral Collateral Ligament Tear: LCL is located outside of the knee and supports outer side of the knee. It gets torn once in a blue moon because it is well protected by the opposite leg. If ever any strain or torn happens to LCL, it can be easily healed using an appropriate knee brace.

Grades of Ligament tears:

Grades are designated to the knee sprains according to the severity of cases. Sometimes, if  more than one ligament is torn, the sprain or injury is considered severe . There are three grades i.e.

  • Grade 1ligament-injury-grades
    • Microscopic tears in the fibres of ligaments.
    • Less than 10% of micro fibres are torn.
    • They heals naturally but medication fastens the healing.
  • Grade 2
    • Ligament is partially torn.
    • Mild instability in the joint
  • Grade 3
    • Ligament is completely torn or separated.
    • Knee becomes unstable and unbalanced.

When one ligament experiences tear, then there is greater possibility of suffering tear in other part of the knee. For example, ACL and MCL supports the knee cooperatively. When ACL suffers tear, there is a good chance that MCL might also suffer sprain. However, MCL sprain is very mild. Athletes are more prone to knee sprain because of involvement in high intensity sports.

What are the Symptoms of Knee Sprain?

Knee is undoubtedly most complex and sensitive joint in the body. Any slight sprain or injury will result in pain and limping. Some of the common symptoms of knee sprains are:

  • Sudden pain in the knee.
  • Knee joint will become stiff and inflexible.
  • Popping sensation called as crepitus can be experienced.
  • Bruising or rashes will occur due to injury.
  • Swelling or inflammation will developed on the affected area.
  • Knee buckling or knee giving away can be felt.
  • Redness and tenderness will developed.
  • Decrease in range of motion.
  • Inability in standing, walking or moving the leg can also be experienced.
  • Feeling of knee becoming loose or immpobilized
  • Inability to put weight or load on the leg

What are the Causes of Knee Sprain?

Knee sprain and tears can be caused due to several factors and some of the causes are:ligament-injury-causes

  • Individual or athletes experience sudden twist while the in the standing position or the foot is firmly planted on the ground, severe sprain or multiple tears can occur because the knee gets twisted in unusual direction.
  • Sudden and direct impact to the knee like in the case of car accident, when knee gets smashed to the car dashboard or awkward landing on the knee.
  • The ligaments will torn away when knee is extended or stretched too far.
  • Ligament may also incur tear when an individual suddenly stops or pivot in running in high speed.
  • Athletes involved in high intensity sports like football, basketball, soccer, rugby, hockey, etc are most vulnerable to knee sprain or ligament tear.
  • Even ligament may tear when transferring your weight. For example in case of skiing.
  • Abnormal movements during physical activity.
  • Athletes actively involved in contact sports are also prone to knee sprain. 

Diagnosis of Knee Sprain :

Detailed medical history and physical test is conducted by doctors. They will recommend X-rays or MRI for acquiring pictures of bones and tissues. These tests will help in analyzing and diagnosing the knee sprain and with the help of these tests, doctors will learn about any tear in the knee. Even the tests will eliminate any further possibility of complications and provide accurate results. 

Treatment of  Knee Sprain:

The treatment of knee sprain depends of the severity of tear. However, some of the most common and effective treatments for knee sprains and ligament tears are:

  • R.I.C.E.: With the help of PRICE formula, knee sprain can be healed efficiently and swiftly.
    • Protect: Once you are diagnosed with knee sprain, your foremost duty is to protect the knee from further injury or damage. Avoid aggravating activities and sports so that your knee is safe and protected.
    • Rest: Resting is the most important part of knee sprain treatment because it will allow the pain to settle down naturally given that you discontinued any activities like walking, keeping weight on knee, climbing stairs, etc. Even, the swelling or inflammation will get reduced.
    • Ice: Icing the affected area will constrict or compress the blood vessels resulting in decrease in swelling, pain, tenderness and redness. Apply the crushed ice wrapped in towel or use ice pack for 15-20 minutes for several times a day. Never apply ice direct to the affected part because you can get frostbite, which means that skin and underlying tissues will get damaged due to extreme cold or freezing.
    • Compress: Compression with the help of elastic bandage will restrict the movement of the knee and reduce swelling. Wear a loose bandage and remove and rewrap occasionally. Don’t wear too tight so that you will pain or your lower part of leg becomes numb.
    • Elevate: Elevating the injured leg above the heart’s level will decrease the flow of the blood to the affected part and this allows the swelling to lessen. You can elevate your leg for one day and incase of severe injury, more than one day is beneficial.
  • NSAIDs: Doctors may prescribe NSAIDs or over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or aspirin to reduce the pain and swelling. Don’t take the pills directly. Consult your doctor before diagnosing any type of medications.
  • Knee Braces: Knee brace will provide support to the knee and restrict your knee from unnecessary movements. They will provide much-needed support and stability to the knee. They are beneficial when resuming sporting activities. Many athletes wear custom-made braces in international sports to avoid any injury or harm.
  • Knee Supports: Sometimes, doctor may advise you to wear a short leg cast for one month or less for effective healing. But, kit depends on the severity of the knee sprain.
  • Crutches: They are very useful along with bracing or taping because they will protect your knee from further injury. Wear crutches until you can stand on your legs properly without any pain or stress.
  • Physical Therapy or Rehabilitation: After the initial relief from the pain, start knee strengthening exercising to regain the lost strength and movement in the knee. Consult physical therapist so that he can make you perform effective exercise that can aid in healing your knee sprain better. With physical therapy, individuals or athletes can restore flexibility, movement, and range of motion in the knee. Following physical therapist’s advice, your return to sporting activities can be quicker than ever.
  • Surgery: When all the conventional treatment methods fails to provide relief to the patients, then doctors may recommend surgery. However, surgery is only required when the ligament is completely torn. The torn ligament will be replaced with healthy ligament.

Recovery Period for Knee Sprain: Recovery time depends on the type, severity and cause of ligament-tear-recoverythe knee sprain. Even treatment method, rehabilitation program and type of sports also comes into play. However, according to research studies and general analysis, Grade 1 and Grade 2 strains, the recovery periods requires one month or so. In case of Grade 3 sprain, 3-12 months will be required for complete healing .

Conclusion – Knee Sprain:

The outlook is good and patients can resume the normal activities once the knee sprain is complete cured . Stay in contact with your doctor or physical therapist. Don’t start activities before you are completely cured from the knee sprain.