Knee sprains may be caused by:
Risk factors that increase your chances of spraining your knee include:
Symptoms of a knee sprain include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and how you injured your knee. The doctor will examine your knee to assess the stability of the joint and the severity of the injury.
Tests may include:
Knee sprains are graded according to their severity. In addition, the more ligaments involved, the more severe the injury.
Take one of the following drugs to help reduce inflammation and pain:
Many knee sprains cannot be prevented. To reduce your risk of spraining a knee:
Athletes can take three steps to reduce their risk of a knee sprain:
To stretch the quads, stand and use a wall or table for support. Lift one leg and pull your foot towards your buttocks. Hold for five seconds, then release the foot and stand straight. Repeat six to ten times on one side, then turn and repeat on the other side.
To stretch the hamstrings, sit with one knee bent and the other leg extended, toes pointing to the ceiling. Lean forward until you feel a stretch. Hold for five seconds then return to your original position.
Repeat six to ten times on each leg.
The key to improving sports performance after a knee sprain is a proper rehabilitation program, and adhering to some of those same principles after the injury is gone.
Keep in mind that the single most important aspect of improving performance is stretching before and after you step onto the field, court, ice, or golf course.
Benefits derived from stretching include:
Often caused by a sudden twisting motion, knee sprains are one of the most common football injuries. For a mild sprain (Grade 1), your doctor may recommend an exercise program to strengthen muscles surrounding the knee. The doctor may also prescribe a protective knee brace for you to wear during activity, and in some cases, may prescribe you to wear a leg cast for two to three weeks.
For torn ligaments (Grade 2 or Grade 3 knee sprain), such as a torn ACL, torn PCL, or meniscal tears, your doctor is likely to recommend surgery, in which the torn ends of the ligament are reattached or reconstructed.
As an athlete, you may already know that one of the most common and best ways to begin rehabilitating a sprain is R.I.C.E.:
You can begin exercise rehabilitation when the swelling subsides, which is usually a few days after the injury. Because warmed tissue is more flexible and less prone to injury, you may want to warm the knee before doing rehabilitation exercises. Use ice when finished to minimize any irritation to the tissue caused by the exercise.
To get you back in the game as quickly as possible, there are three main goals in rehabilitating the knee: restoring motion and flexibility, restoring strength, and restoring balance.
Once knee pain has been minimized, you may swim, cycle, walk, stair climb, weight train, or jog, as pain allows. These activities will help you to gradually return to full training. Also remember to continue these stretching, strengthening, and range-of-motion exercises in order to reduce the risk of injury recurrence.
During the period when normal training should be avoided, alternative exercises may be used. These activities should not require any actions that create or intensify pain at the site of injury. They include:
An athlete who wishes to return to sports that involve jumping, cutting, and pivoting may need surgery to reconstruct the ligament if it's torn completely. This stabilizes the knee, preserves the cartilage, and enables a return to sports at the same level as prior to the surgery. After surgery, exercise and rehabilitative therapy are required to strengthen the muscles and restore mobility. With this procedure, most athletes can return to their chosen sport at the same level
Keep in mind that if your knee injury requires surgery, the soft tissue needs time to heal before exercise can begin. While in the hospital, patients start partial weight bearing with exercises to re-establish knee joint mobility and normal gait. In these cases, you would be required to wear a brace and use crutches for the first six weeks.
A physical therapy program usually begins with range-of-motion and resistive exercises, then incorporates power, aerobic and muscular endurance, flexibility, and coordination drills.
Finally, patients develop speed and agility through sport-specific exercise routines. A typical patient may begin to ride a bike at three months, start running at five to seven months, and return to competitive sports after eight to 12 months. Full recovery may take up to two years.
The ultimate goal of reconstructive knee surgery is to provide dynamic stability while maintaining full range of motion, so that athletes can return to competitive or recreational sports. Progress is assessed by the patient's perception of how stable the knee feels and by comparing the strength and stability of the injured and uninjured knees.
The goal of rehabilitation is to return you to your sport or activity as soon as is safely possible. If you return too soon you may worsen your injury, which could lead to permanent damage. Everyone recovers from injury at a different rate. Return to your activity is determined by how soon your knee sprain recovers, not by how many days or weeks it has been since your injury occurred. It also depends on how serious the injury is. Instances where reconstructive surgery is required will obviously create a longer recovery period than patients with a mild sprain.
A good rule is to allow pain to dictate when you're ready to return to activity. You should return in moderation, and back off if you feel any pain.
The ultimate goal of reconstructive surgery is to provide dynamic stability while maintaining full range of motion, so that athletes can return to competitive or recreational sports. Progress is assessed by the patient's perception of how stable the knee feels and by comparing the strength and stability of the injured and uninjured knees.
You may safely return to your sport or activity when, starting from the top of the list and progressing to the end, each of the following is true:
With proper rehabilitation, a first occurrence of pain that is diagnosed and treated in its early stages with rest, ice, elevation, and compression usually lasts two weeks. If the injury has recurred several times, full recovery may take as long as six weeks.
Frequent episodes of knee sprains may result in a ligament tear. Such a complication may require surgical treatment, and full recovery under such circumstances can take up to two years, depending on the severity.