Knee pain is the second most common cause of chronic pain, second only to back pain. Let’s explore the 5 most common knee injuries.
Knees carry a significant amount of weight and stress from daily activities, like walking, lifting, jumping, kneeling, or running. The knee is the largest — and one of the most important and complex — joints in the body, formed by the following bones:
- Femur (thighbone)
- Tibia (shin bone)
- Patella (knee bone)
A layer of articular cartilage covers the ends of the femur and tibia and the back of the patella, allowing the bones to move without friction against each other as the leg bends and extends. The meniscus is a wedge-shaped piece of cartilage between the femur and tibia that absorbs shock and helps to cushion the joint. Ligaments connect the bones and stabilize the joint as it moves, and tendons connect the bones to muscles in the leg (quadriceps and hamstrings). Bursae, small sacs of fluid, surround the knee joint and reduce friction during movement.
Knee injuries can affect any of the parts that form the joint: the bones, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, or bursae.
Some of the most common knee injuries include:
- Fracture: Many knee fractures are caused by trauma, such as a fall or a car or bike accident. A fracture can occur in the patella or the ends of the femur or tibia.
- Knee dislocation: A dislocation happens when the bones in the knee move out of alignment, often due to trauma or an athletic injury. In a minor dislocation, the knee may self-correct and return to proper functioning with some soreness. Otherwise, a doctor must move the bones back into place.
- Torn ACL: A tear to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a common injury among athletes who play sports that require sudden stops or changes in direction, like soccer, basketball, skiing, or football. Rest, rehabilitative therapy, and/or surgery may be required after an ACL injury.\
- Knee bursitis: Inflammation or irritation of the bursae that cushion the knee joint is called bursitis and can cause pain and limited mobility. Knee bursitis often occurs over the kneecap or on the inside of the knee under the joint. Common causes are overuse, extended pressure, or a sharp blow to the knee.
- Meniscal Tear: A torn meniscus can occur any time the knee is forcibly twisted or rotated and is a common sports injury. In some cases, rest, ice, and pain medication will allow the tear to heal on its own. In others, surgery is necessary.
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