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Knee sprain

A knee sprain is a common injury that occurs from overstretching of the ligaments that support the knee joint. A knee sprain occurs when the knee ligaments are twisted or turned beyond their normal range causing the ligaments to tear.

Some of the common causes of a knee sprain include forceful twisting of the knee, sudden stopping whilst running, a direct blow to the knee or a fall that results in landing on your knees. The factors that increase the risk of a knee sprain include participation in pivoting sports activities such as skiing, poor coordination, poor balance, or inadequate flexibility and strength in muscles.

The most common symptoms include pain, swelling, bruising, warmth and redness of the skin, and restricted movements. Pain will occur soon after injury and may increase upon movement of the knee.

Your surgeon will evaluate your condition by physical examination and medical history. Diagnostic tests such as X-ray and MRI scan may be required to confirm the severity of the injury and then formulate a plan for treatment.

Immediately following a knee injury and before being evaluated by a doctor, you should initiate the R.I.C.E. method of treatment

  • Rest: You must ensure that your knee is rested, as more damage could result from putting pressure on the injured area.
  • Ice: Ice packs should be applied over the injury to decrease swelling and pain. Ice should never be placed on the skin directly instead it should be applied over a cloth covering to the affected area for 15-20 minutes four/five times a day for several days.
  • Compression: Wrap the knee with an elastic bandage or compress it with the help of a stocking to minimize the swelling and support the knee.
  • Elevation: Elevate the knee above heart level which will help to decrease swelling and pain.

After the ‘RICE’ treatment, your specialist may suggest you wear a splint, or a brace which immobilizes the knee joint to prevent it from further movement until healing occurs. Medicines may be suggested (such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to decrease pain and swelling). Physiotherapy will include range of motion exercises such as strengthening and stretching exercises which helps to regain normal functioning of the knee.

There are several preventive measures to reduce your risk of recurrent knee sprain.

  • Ensure that you perform warm up exercises or stretches before starting any physical activity or sports.
    Ensure that you learn proper technique for sports and exercise which helps to decrease stress on muscles, ligaments, and tendons.
  • Make sure that you wears proper protective equipment during sports activity which will help to protect you from injury.
  • Take a break from sports when tired.
  • Most patients respond well to non-surgical treatments but if the pain and/or instability persists over a long time, then surgery may be needed to repair the torn ligaments.
RCS Logo British Orthopaedic AssociationRoyal College of Surgeons of EdinburghOTSISBritish Association for knee surgeryISOAMDU LogoOTSIS