Whether you call it a bad knee, a bum knee, a wonky knee, or just a pain, having problems with your knees is not uncommon. This month, the professional tennis world was wondering if tennis champ Rafael Nadal would be able to play at the Rogers Cup tournament in Montreal, Canada, because he, too, has wonky knees. In Nadal’s case, he has tendonitis. Last year, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady lost a whole year after injuring his knee in the first quarter of the first game of the season.
Even if you don’t follow golf, you probably know that golf champion Tiger Woods had surgery on his knee last year as well ( Knee pain brings Tiger Woods down for the season and Speaking of knee injuries… Tiger Woods update ). Competitive skiers often have to miss lengthy parts of their season from knee injuries, along with many other athletes in many other sports. Some knees can be repaired, others rebuilt, and others replaced. Whether the athlete can continue on with their activities can only be decided by the strength and effectiveness of the healing.
So, if knee injuries are so common among those who receive special training and medical care, it’s no wonder that the every day person also ends up with knee injuries.
Types of knee injuries
There are multiple ways you can injure your knees and you don’t have to be a professional. You could step in a hole in the ground, you could trip on something on the sidewalk, or you could slip in a puddle of water, just to name a few. Here are the most common injuries:
Twisted knee: The twisted knee is likely the most common injury. This happens when your foot and lower leg go one way and your upper body and hips want to go the other.
Dislocated kneecap: The kneecap is held in place by very strong tendons. If the tendons are torn or stretched, the kneecap may shift from one side to the other.
Shattered kneecap: If you fall hard on your knee or are struck by something on the knee, since the kneecap is a bone, it could break.
Torn ligaments: A very common knee injury is a torn ligament. The knee has 3 ligaments that keep the muscles connected and moving the muscles as you want them too. The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is commonly torn in sports injuries and falls.
Tendonitis: Tendonitis is caused by repeatedly using the same body part and tendons over and over. The best example is the so-called tennis elbow. By contantly bending your forearm up and down, all while working with it, you irritate the tendon, causing it to become inflamed and painful. The same thing happens in the knee, particularly if you’re participating in an activity where you stop and start very quickly many times within a short period of time, as do tennis players.
Disease injury: Osteoarthritis is one disease that can attack the knee, causing severe pain and disability. Osteoarthritis is often called the wear-and-tear arthritis.
Torn miniscus: The meniscus is a curved piece of cartilage in your knee, which can be torn if the knee suffers a trauma.
Many athletes wear braces or splints on their knee to help protect it from further injury. Wearing one may be all the knee needs, but only your doctor and physiotherapist can work with you on that. Speaking of physiotherapists, they can be your best friend when working with injuries like those to the knee. With a doctor’s go-ahead, a physical therapist can help you heal your knee and then teach you how to strengthen your knee after.
Medications are an option that help many people. Your doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling inside the knee, reducing the irritation and pain. Analgesics, pain killers, may also be used. Depending on the injury, the knee may benefit from an injection of a corticosteroid directly into the joint.
Immobilizing the knee is done in most traumatic knee injuries. By putting it in a splint, you can’t injure it any further through movement and the knee has a chance to heal.
Surgery has come a long way in helping injured knees. Endoscopic surgery is most often preferred for surgery to repair ligament tears, clean out the knee joint and so on. This type of surgery leaves you with a few tiny scars rather than one large one. A long instrument with a light and camera is inserted through one tiny incision and the doctor inserts the tools in the other incisions. By seeing the inside of your knee on a computer screen, he or she manipulates the tools to do the repairs. This is called minimally invasive surgery. If this isn’t possible, then surgery can be done by opening the knee with a larger incision.
Knee replacements are increasingly common as well. Just as with a hip replacement, the joint is removed and replaced with an artificial knee. This type of surgery is called an arthroplasty.