Knee Sprains

Knee Sprain

What is a knee sprain?

A knee sprain occurs when ligaments within or around the knee are stretched and torn. The severity of a knee sprain is determined by the degree of injury to the ligaments:

  • In a mild, or first-degree sprain, the stretched ligaments cause pain and swelling
  • In a moderate, or second-degree sprain, mild tears of the ligaments create instability in the knee joint; it is more disabling than a mild sprain
  • In a severe, or third-degree sprain, there is a compete rupture of the ligaments, often requiring surgical repair

What causes a knee sprain?

Knee ligaments may be injured during athletic or occupational activities involving sudden force. Knee sprains may be caused by:

  • Forced twisting of the knee
  • Stopping suddenly while running
  • Shifting your weight while running or skiing
  • Landing awkwardly after jumping
  • A blow to the outer or inner side of the knee
  • A blow to the front of the knee while the knee is bent and the foot is firmly planted on the ground

What are the symptoms of a knee sprain?

Symptoms of a knee sprain depend on the location and severity of the knee ligaments damaged. Some symptoms may include the following:

  • Stiffness or decreased movement
  • Pain or tenderness
  • Painful pop that you can hear or feel
  • Swelling or bruising
  • Knee that buckles or gives out when you try to walk

How is a knee sprain diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and how the injury occurred. The range of motion in your knee will be evaluated and assessed for stability. X-rays and MRI scans may also be done to confirm an injury. In some cases, arthroscopy (a minimally invasive procedure) may be performed to look inside your knee.

How is a sprain treated?

Depending on the severity of your sprain, your physician may prescribe exercise, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and/or cortisone injections. Supportive braces may need to be worn to allow your ligaments to heal. In cases that don’t respond to other care, surgery may be required.

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