A knee sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments that support the knee. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other.
Knee sprains may be caused by:
Forced twisting of the knee
Stopping suddenly while running
Shifting your weight while running or skiing
Landing awkwardly after jumping
Blow to the outer or inner side of the knee
Blow to the front of the knee while the knee is bent and the foot is firmly planted on the ground
Factors that may increase your chance of developing a knee sprain include:
Inadequate flexibility and strength in muscles and ligaments
Pain in the knee
Swelling, redness, warmth, or bruising around the knee
Decreased range of motion in the knee
Inability to stand on the affected leg
Tenderness where the injured ligament attaches to a bone in the knee
Swelling within the knee
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and how the injury occurred. The knee will be checked to see how stable the joint is and how severe the pain is.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
A minimally invasive procedure may be done to look inside your knee. This can be done with arthroscopy.
Knee sprains are graded according to their severity. The injury is considered more severe if more ligaments are involved.
Stretching and microtearing of ligament tissue
Partial tearing of ligament tissue
Mild instability of the joint when tested
Severe or complete tearing of ligament tissue
Significant instability of the joint
Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation
Your doctor may advise that you follow the RICE method:
Rest—Avoid putting any pressure on your knee by not walking on that leg.
Ice—Apply ice or a cold pack to the knee for 15-20 minutes, four times a day for two days. This helps reduce pain and swelling. Wrap the ice or cold pack in a towel. Do not apply ice directly to your skin.
Compression—Wrap your knee in an elastic bandage. This will limit swelling and provide some support for your knee. Be careful not to wrap the bandage too tightly.
Elevation—Keep the injured knee raised above the level of your heart. Do this as much as possible for 24 hours. This will help drain fluid and reduce swelling. For severe sprains, you may need to do this for a couple of days.
If advised by your doctor or physical therapist, wear a brace. The brace will keep your knee from moving. Crutches may also be used with the brace. You may also need to wear a brace when you return to sports. It may need to be custom made to support your knee rather than keep it from moving. Braces are not advised for children.
If you have a severe sprain, you may need to wear a short leg cast for 2-3 weeks.
Your physical therapists may prescribe exercises to restore flexibility, range of motion, and strength. They can also improve your balance to decrease your fall risk.
To reduce your risk of spraining a knee:
Warm up and stretch before exercise. Cool down and stretch after exercise.
Take a break from sports and exercise when you feel tired.
Do exercises that strengthen the leg muscles.
Learn the proper technique for sports and exercise. This will decrease stress on all your muscles, ligaments, and tendons, including those around your knee. Also, wear the proper equipment.
Ask your doctor if you should use a brace.
This content was created using EBSCO's Health Library
Martin TJ. American Academy of Pediatrics: Technical report: knee brace use in the young athlete. Pediatrics. 2001;108:503-507.
Najibi S, Albright JP. The use of knee braces, part 1: prophylactic knee braces in contact sports. Am J Sports Med. 2005;33:602-611.
Petersen W, Braun C, et al. A controlled prospective case control study of a prevention training program in female team handball players: the German experience. Arch Orthop Trauma Surg. 2005;125:614-621.
Rayan F, Bhonsle S, et al. Clinical, MRI, and arthroscopic correlation in meniscal and anterior cruciate ligament injuries. Int Orthop. 2009 Feb;33(1):129-132.
Renstrom P, IOC Medical Commission, International Federation of Sports Medicine. Sports Injuries: Basic Principles of Prevention and Care. Boston, MA: Blackwell Scientific Publications; 1993.
Sprains and strains: what's the difference? American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website. Available at: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=A00111 . Updated October 2007. Accessed August 29, 2013.
What are sprains and strains? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. National Institutes of Health (NIH) website. Available at:http://www.niams.n.... Published June 2009. Accessed August 29, 2013.
1/4/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us : Massey T, Derry S, Moore R, McQuay H. Topical NSAIDs for acute pain in adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010;(6):CD007402.
This content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library