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Conditions you may be experiencing:
Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries (Torn or Sprained ACL)
Some of the most familiar injuries to sports fans, torn or sprained anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL) frequently sideline professional athletes, playing football, baseball, soccer and other sports, dependent upon knee plant and pivot. In a healthy knee, several ligaments work together, stabilizing the structure and facilitating flexible movement. The ACL connects the thigh (femur) and shin (tibia), crossing through the knee joint. Pain, swelling and instability occur when the major ligament is sprained or torn by stress or impact.
Cause of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
Sports-related mishaps top the list of causes of ACL injury. The anterior cruciate ligament is integral to stable knee movement, particularly during pivoting moves, sudden stops, and jumping. Many sports rely on knee strength and flexibility, so athletic ACL incidents are widespread – seen in individual pastimes like tennis and skiing, as well as team outings like basketball and football. When an athelete plants a foot and quickly changes direction, for instance, or lands awkwardly from a jump, stress on the knee joint escalates, sometimes causing tendon sprains. As a result, anterior cruciate ligament sprains and tears do not always involve forceful impact to the knee joint
Women are more likely to suffer ACL injuries than men participating in similar activities.
Description of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
The three bones of the knee are connected and stabilized by tough bands of tissue. Collateral ligaments are found on the outside of the knee, while cruciate ligaments connect bones within the joint. Among them, the anterior (front) cruciate ligament is responsible for keeping the tibia in position and reinforcing knee stability. Various injuries can sprain the ACL, stretching it, or in severe grade 3 sprains, breaking the tendon into two pieces. An complete ACL tear results in marked instability of the knee joint.
Symptoms of Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
Among the most common injuries to the knee, sprains and tears of the anterior cruciate ligament frequent present these symptoms:
- Pain with swelling within 24 hours
- Loss of full range of motion
- Tenderness along the joint line
- Discomfort while walking
Combined Knee Ligament Injuries (Multiple Torn Knee Ligaments)
The human knee joint is a complex mechanism, relying on bones, cartilage and other soft tissue to function as it should. The joint’s three bones are connected by tough, resilient bands of tissue, which facilitate the knee’s back and forth range of motion. These major ligaments join the thigh bone (femur) and the shin (tibia), helping align and stabilize the joint. The knee cap (patella) covers and protects the ligaments behind it, but contact injuries and awkward twisting force, particularly with a planted foot, can damage knee ligaments. Its interconnected structure makes the joint particularly vulnerable to combined knee ligament injuries, in which more than one ligament is torn.
Cause of Combined Knee Ligament Injuries
Complex, combined knee injuries occur when the tibia becomes separated from the femur, causing more than one ligament to tear. Multiligament injury can be serious, particularly when 3 or 4 of the major ligaments sustain damage and the knee dislocates. Substantial force is required to sprain or tear multiple knee ligaments, often resulting from a car accident, fall, or sports injury. Without proper, timely treatment, combination knee ligament injuries can cause permanent damage and loss of joint function.
Description of Combined Knee Ligament Injuries
Several ligaments work in unison, providing stability to the knee joint. On the sides, collateral ligaments are responsible for side to side movement, stabilizing the joint against side force. Inside the knee joint, directly behind the patella, cruciate ligaments control the front to back motion of the knee. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), on the front of the structure, is frequently injured during athletic activities, but the posterior cruciate ligament is also vulnerable to tears. Combined knee ligament injuries take place when more than one ligament tears, as the result of a single incident or injury.
Symptoms of Combined Knee Ligament Injuries
Combination injuries, involving multiple knee ligaments, may present some or all of these symptoms:
- Instability in knee joint, or feeling that knee is giving way
- Symptoms may include a combination of the following symptoms:
- May hear a “popping” noise and feel your knee give out
- Pain with swelling within 24 hours that may or may not make knee stiff and cause a limp
- Pain at sides of knee, inside of knee or outside of knee
- Loss of full range of motion
- Tenderness along the joint line
- Discomfort while walking or difficulty walking
Like other joints, knees rely on cartilage to absorb force and cushion contact between bones. Arthritis occurs when the cartilage thins or sustains damage, reducing its effectiveness as a shock absorber. In the knee, the space between the thigh bone (femur) and shin (tibia) is prone to osteoarthritis, as wear and tear diminishes the cartilage cushion. Over time, knee arthritis may cause spurs and loose objects to develop, further complicating the painful condition.
Cause of Knee Arthritis
The origins of osteoarthritis may trace to multiple contributing causes, including these risk factors:
- Age – Although young people can develop arthritis, risk increases beyond age 45. Often referred to as “wear and tear” arthritis, natural, age-related degradation is itself enough to cause osteoarthritis of the knee.
- Gender – Women are more likely than men to develop arthritis.
- Heredity – Genetic predisposition may increase the risk for developing knee arthritis.
- Injury – Repetitive stress accelerates wear and tear on knee joints, contributing to the development of osteoarthritis. Athletes prone to overuse of the knees, for instance, are at higher risk, and a history of acute injury may also hasten the onset of osteoarthritis in the knee.
- Weight – Carrying extra weight may contribute to premature wear and damage to knee cartilage.
Description of Knee Arthritis
Osteoarthritis is a common complaint among those over age 45. Pain, swelling, and stiffness associated with this type of arthritis may strike any of the body’s joints, but knees are particularly vulnerable to the condition. Repetitive stress and overuse cause cartilage between the knee bones to break-down, thinning and causing bones to rub against one another, without a proper buffer. While it commonly develops as a result of natural age-related degeneration, knee arthritis may also set-in following acute injury or infection.
Symptoms of Knee Arthritis
Arthritis in the knee joint commonly presents these symptoms:
- Pain when getting up or initiating activity
- Knee stiffness or loss of the ability to fully straighten or bend knee
- A feeling of fullness (fluid) in the knee
- Giving way or instability of the knee
- Creakiness, grinding, or snapping (“crepitus”)
Meniscal Tear (Torn Knee Cartilage)
Torn meniscus is a very common sports injury, affecting cartilage in the knee. Cartilage is the tough, resilient material responsible for absorbing impact and cushioning contact between bones. In the knee joint, two masses of cartilage comprise the meniscus, resting between the shin (tibia) and thigh (femur) bones, behind the knee cap (patella). Meniscal tear results from contact or injury to the cartilage, causing damage and instability.
Cause of a Meniscal Tear
A direct, forceful blow to the knee may cause damage to the meniscus, but the cartilage can also be torn without contact. On the football field, for example, players suffer meniscal tears resulting from blocks and tackles, but pivoting off a planted foot can also tear the cartilage, without the player taking a hit. Due to the intricate, interconnected nature of the knee’s structure, an acute meniscal tear often occurs along with other knee injuries.
Degenerative causes may also lead to meniscus injuries, as the cartilage thins and weakens, with age. Repetitive stress and deterioration of menisci make them more susceptible to tears, most often occurring in middle-age and beyond.
Description of a Meniscal Tear
The rounded surface of the femur bone meets the tibia at the knee, relying on ligaments and other soft tissue to keep the joint stable and aligned. On each side of the knee, triangular pads of cartilage serve important functions. Not only do the menisci act as shock absorbers, but they also lubricate the knee joint and stabilize its structure. Without the cartilage and other tissue present to soften the contact between bones, routine movements would place extraordinary stress on the joint. Thin toward the center and thicker on the outside; the wedge shaped menisci drastically reduce the force of impact at the knee joint. Meniscal tear results from age-related degeneration, or acute causes, such as athletic injury.
Symptoms of a Meniscal Tear
Torn knee cartilage commonly leads to the following symptoms:
- May feel a “pop”
- Pain in the knee
- Knee becomes stiff and swollen 2 to 3 days following injury
- Catching or locking of knee
- Sensation of knee “giving way”
- Inability to move knee through full range of motion
- Knee may slip, pop or lock
Osgood-Schlatter Disease (Growth Related Inflammation of the Knee)
Aging joints are particularly vulnerable to conditions like arthritis and bursitis, but developing joints are also susceptible to painful conditions. Osgood-Schlatter Disease, for example, impacts teens and adolescents, as growth-related symptoms cause inflammation in the knee. Typically affecting boys around age 13-14, girls experience the condition at a younger age, corresponding with the onset of puberty at age 11-12. Osgood-Schlatter is characterized by a painful lump below the kneecap, most often appearing in athletic young people. Running, jumping, and pivot moves may contribute to the condition.
Cause of Osgood-Schlatter Disease
During puberty, as adolescents experience rapid growth, a spurt can lead to Osgood-Schlatter Disease. The condition develops when a child or teen undertakes repetitive athletic activities, such as jumping, running or planting feet to change directions. Basketball, hockey, volleyball and other sports are known contributors, increasing risk for Osgood-Schlatter.
Description of Osgood-Schlatter Disease
The knee is a complex joint, which relies on muscles and other soft tissue to control movement and keep the structure aligned. As the knee develops, active adolescents may develop Osgood-Schlatter Disease – commonly brought-on by sports and repetitive physical activities involving the knee.
As young people run, jump and rapidly change direction, thigh muscles pull on the tendon behind the kneecap (patella). Over time, if the patella is drawn away from the joint, inflammation and pain may indicate Osgood-Schlatter. In some cases, the body tries to fill the small gap created by the misaligned kneecap, forming a bony growth in its place.
Symptoms of Osgood-Schlatter Disease
Growth-related Osgood-Schlatter Disease can cause the following symptoms:
- Knee pain
- Tenderness below the kneecap, particularly when pressure is applied
Patellofemoral Pain (Runner’s Knee)
Participating in athletics places extra strain on the body, particularly its joints. Sometimes called “runner’s knee” or “jumper’s knee” patellofemoral pain may result from repetitive use during sports and other activities. The generalized term describes pain in front of and around the kneecap (patella). Although it is associated with sports, patellofemoral pain is not exclusive to athletes; overuse during everyday activities and problems with knee alignment may also lead to this type of knee pain.
Cause of Patellofemoral Pain
Painful knee conditions commonly result from overuse and natural deterioration of cartilage in the joint. As cartilage wears and softens beneath the kneecap, patellofemoral pain can set-in. Additional, contributing causes may include the following:
- Rigorous training – Runners and other athletes place high demands on their weight-bearing joints, sometimes leading to this painful syndrome. Jumping, squatting, and other activities stressful to the knees are underlying causes, often stirring-up symptoms as workouts intensify.
- Age – Teens and active young adults experience patellofemoral pain more frequently than others.
- Prolonged stress – Carrying extra weight adds ongoing stress to knee joints, increasing risk for developing pain and other symptoms.
- Injury -When the structure of the knee sustains damage, it becomes susceptible to related conditions, such as arthritis, bursitis, and patellofemoral pain syndrome.
Description of Patellofemoral Pain
Pain around the knee is identified as patellofemoral pain syndrome. Several underlying causes may be responsible for its onset, sometimes in combination. When nerves near the knee sense pain, it may be due to deteriorated cartilage or damaged synovial tissue lining the joint. Tendons and other soft tissue may also be involved, depending on what types of activities are responsible for the irritation.
Symptoms of Patellofemoral Pain
Runner’s knee, commonly associated with athletics, may result in the following symptoms:
- Dull, aching pain under or around front of kneecap where it connects at thighbone
- Pain when walking up or down stairs, kneeling, squatting, and sitting with a bent knee for an extended time period
Prepatellar Bursitis (Swollen Kneecap Area)
Bursae are small pouches of tissue containing thin fluid-filled linings. The sacs are found throughout the body, near joints and places where ligaments connect bones. Bursae furnish soft buffers against rigid bone surfaces, helping maximize range of motion and reduce friction caused by movement. Bursitis occurs when the sacs become irritated and overfill, causing swelling and tenderness in the affected area.
Four bursae are present near the knee, but the prepatellar bursa exhibits bursitis symptoms more frequently than the other three. Affecting the thin bursa located on the front surface of the kneecap, prepatellar bursitis can set-in at any age.
Cause of Prepatellar Bursitis
The prepatellar bursa lies very close to the surface of the skin, in front of the kneecap. The thin fluid-filled sac is vulnerable to blows and overuse, often leading to inflammation and swelling. Because the bursa is on the outside of the kneecap, the joint itself does not exhibit symptoms resulting from prepatellar bursitis.
Athletic injury and job-related activities may increase the risk for developing prepatellar bursitis, including these contributing causes:
- Repetitive kneeling – Once referred to as “housemaid’s knee” prepatellar bursitis frequently results from extended periods of kneeling. Prolonged job-related activities, such as flooring installation and roofing may increase the risk for developing bursa irritation and inflammation.
- Acute injury – A direct blow or fall may result in an acute case of prepatellar bursitis, causing immediate swelling and discomfort. Active adults and athletes are most vulnerable to these types of injuries.
- Infection – Common among children, certain infections near the knee may lead to prepatellar bursitis.
- Co-existing conditions – Inflammatory disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis may contribute to bursitis in the kneecap, as well as a history of gout and other crystal-depositing conditions.
Symptoms of Prepatellar Bursitis
Bursitis swelling near the knee cap may cause these symptoms:
- Pain with activity, but not usually at night
- Rapid swelling on front of kneecap
- Tender and warm to the touch