A knee sprain is a tear to any of the four ligaments which support the knee and can include lateral ligament sprains on the inside or outside of the knee, or tears to the cruciate ligaments deeper inside the knee joint. Often knee sprains are complicated involving injury to more than one ligament as well as other structures in the joint.
Knee sprain symptoms
A knee sprain will usually be the result of an impact with another player a twisting with the foot in contact with the ground so the athlete will usually know it has happened. There will be instant pain and usually swelling. The pain may be severe and pinpointing exactly where the pain is may be difficult until the injury settles down.
Knee sprain explained
The sprain will occur in one or more of the knee ligaments. A Medial ligament sprain will cause pain on the inside of the knee and is usually a result of an impact on the outside of the knee. A Lateral ligament sprain will result in pain on the outside of the knee joint and is often caused by an impact on the inside of the knee.
The cruciate ligaments cross over in the middle of the knee and provide forwards and backwards stability. An Anterior cruciate ligament sprain can occur with twisting or impact or when the front a ski digs into the snow. A Posterior Cruciate ligament sprain is mostly injured from a movement that forces the knee joint back the wrong way.
Ligament sprains are grade 1,2 or 3 depending on how bad the injury is and how much of the ligament is torn. A grade 1 injury is a minor tear where up to 10% of the fibres are torn. A grade 2 injury is more severe and may be anything from 10 to 90% of the fibres being damaged. This can be broken down further into grade 2- and 2+. Grade 3 injuries are complete ruptures of the ligament.
Most knee sprains occur during a forceful movement at the knee, particularly twisting or side-ways movements which over-stretch the ligament.
Tackles in sports such as football and rugby are common examples. Also having the foot planted and twisting the upper body, such as in Netball pivoting, can lead to an ACL injury.
the MCL, in particular, can be injured as a result of long-term stresses on the ligament, which tend to cause stretching and inflammation of the ligament, without an actual tear. This is caused by increased pressure on the inner knee, usually by faulty biomechanics. Overpronation at the foot, combined with weak hip abductors, result in the knee falling inwards and stressing the MCL.
Knee sprain treatment
Treatment of knee sprains is the same for grade 1 and 2 injuries although more severe injuries will take longer in each stage of treatment. Grade 3 injuries are more difficult to treat and may require surgery, especially if any other injuries are involved.
Stage 1: Rest, Ice, Elevate and Compress to reduce swelling, pain and bruising. If necessary, use crutches to enable the knee to rest and reduce the weight on the knee, until pain allows full weight bearing. You may be prescribed anti-inflammatory medications such as Ibuprofen to ease the pain. Mobility exercises can begin once pain allows. This involves gently bending the knee as far as is comfortable.
Stage 2: Continue with mobility exercises. Proceed to full weight bearing as soon as possible. A physical therapist may use techniques such as ultrasound or massage to help the ligament to heal. Strengthening exercises such as straight leg raise and contracting the quad and hamstring muscles are recommended to avoid a loss of muscle mass.
Stage 3: Full weight bearing should be possible by now. Start to increase the strengthening exercises to include squats and lunges etc. Balance exercises using a wobble board are also great at this point.