Between skiing and new exercise regimes, we are seeing an epidemic of knee injuries this month!
The knee joint is held firmly together with four strap-like ligaments – the medial collateral ligament (MCL) on the inside, the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) on the outside, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in the centre. When one or more of these ligaments is overstretched, the ligament fibres can be damaged or torn, resulting in a sore, swollen knee, which can feel unstable, or give way.
The anterior cruciate ligament is the most commonly injured structure in skiers. It can be strained or torn with a sudden twisting motion, while the foot remains planted on the ski! The medial collateral ligament is more easily injured than the lateral collateral ligament and is commonly injured in sport, with a blow to the outside of the knee, or a sudden change of direction.
The other commonly injured structure in your knee is the cartilage or meniscus. There is a medial meniscus and a lateral meniscus, which line the knee joint and act as shock-absorbers. The meniscus can be damaged over a prolonged period as a result of normal wear and tear, or can be torn suddenly when the knee forcefully rotates while taking weight. This can cause fluid on the knee, and knee pain.
There are also a host of other causes of knee pain, from things like knee bursitis, or after having a knee replacement.
The severity of ligament and cartilage injuries varies from a mild tear or strain which can recover in 4-6 weeks, to a severe tear which could require 6-9 months of rehabilitation. The good news is that Physiotherapy is the best treatment option for almost all knee injuries, with only a handful of knee injuries requiring a specialist opinion. If you have injured your knee, the best thing to do is have it assessed by a Physiotherapist so you know exactly what you’re dealing with.