Rehabilitation and Treatment of Common Knee Injuries

Of the common sports injuries, knee ligament injuries are some of the most serious. But with help from a physiotherapist, one can often recover fully.

Injuries to the knee joint are common in a broad spectrum of sports: hockey, football, judo, downhill skiing, soccer, skateboarding, basketball, and wrestling, to name a few. Because they can side line an athlete for anywhere from two weeks to a year or more, knee ligament injuries are a particularly dreaded sports injury. However, armed with the knowledge of a sports injury specialist and a substantial knee injury treatment program, one can reasonably expect to return to activity after even a severe knee injury.

Structure of the Knee Joint

The knee joint is held together by four ligaments. These are the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and the the medial collateral ligament (MCL). The MCL and LCL support the knee joint on the medial (inside) and lateral (outside) sides of the knee. The ACL and PCL travel diagonally through the knee joint from front to back, crossing each other roughly at the middle of the joint.

Common Knee Injuries

Since the ligaments of the knee joint are relatively delicate concerning the forces of impact and torsion that sports put on the knee, torn ligaments are common knee injuries. Knee ligament injuries are grouped according to severity. First-degree (or partial) tears are longitudinal ones where the ligament remains intact. Second-degree tears are also partial tears, although more severe. Third-degree tears involve a complete tear of the ligament.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) runs through the centre of the joint and is the knee’s primary stabiliser. An athlete who suffers a third-degree (complete) tear of his ACL will require surgery to rebuild the ligament and will often have to follow a dedicated rehabilitation program for a year or more before returning to his regular activities. For this reason, an anterior cruciate ligament injury is considered serious.

MCL Knee Injury

Medial collateral ligament (MCL) tears occur when the knee joint is subjected to an impact from the outside, such as a football tackle. While often very painful, an MCL injury is less debilitating than an anterior cruciate ligament injury. Reconstructive knee surgery is rarely used after an MCL tear because adequate joint stability can often be attained by strengthening the surrounding muscles.

LCL and PCL Tears

Injuries to the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) are less common than MCL and ACL injuries. PCL tears, in particular, are uncommon in sports, usually resulting from a severe event such as a car accident. Like an anterior cruciate ligament injury, a PCL tear results in a loss of stability and is usually surgically repaired. LCL tears are similar in severity to MCL tears and aren’t often corrected with surgery.

Consult a Physiotherapist to Ensure Proper Rehabilitation

As with all sports injuries, it’s best to consult a skilled sports injury specialist when dealing with a knee ligament injury. A sports medicine professional or physiotherapist experienced in knee ligament injury treatment can put together a specialised program of stretches and strengthening exercises that will stabilise the knee joint, get the athlete back to their sport, and protect the knee ligaments from future injury.