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How Do I Know If I Sprained My Knee

How To Tell If I Sprained Or Tore A Ligament

How to know if you have a serious knee injury

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You Have Significant Weakness Trying To Straighten Your Knee

Severe weakness when trying to straighten the knee, even a few days after the injury, could mean that you suffered a severe tendon injury. Common causes of weakness include patella dislocations, patella tendon tears, and quadriceps tendon tears. Patella tendon and quadriceps tendon tears are not common in youth or collegiate sports, but we will see a few of these every year.

In older weekend warriors who are wondering why their knee is weak after a serious injury, patella tendon and quadriceps tendon injuries are far more common. If you are over 35 and felt a loud pop in your knee while pushing off during tennis, or basketball then you need to consider that you have seriously injured your patella or quadriceps tendon.

After an injury to one of these large, critically important tendons, you will find that the knee will feel unstable. You will think that the knee is unable to support your weight without giving way. You should be promptly evaluated by a Sports Medicine physician to determine the type of injury you had. Both quadriceps and patella tendon injuries require surgery to repair these large essential tendons.

We discuss the management of patella tendon injuries in this post. The management of quadriceps tendon tears is very similar.

What Does A Sprained Knee Feel Like

The following are sprained knee symptoms:

  • Pain around the affected area
  • Swelling around the sprained section of the knee
  • Knee instability, leading to your knee buckling under the pressure of your weight
  • Bruising, moderate to severe, depending on the sprain
  • A popping sound when the injury occurs
  • Stiffness and decreased movement due to pain
  • Limited to no range of motion

Depending on which ligament you injure, your symptoms could differ.

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To Diagnose A Knee Sprain

Your doctor may do some physical tests to check the movement of your knee and an MRI to see your ligaments.The treatment and prognosis of any knee sprain will depend on the following:

  • Which of the four knee ligaments you injured, and
  • How severe the sprain is

Lets take a look at each ligament and its prognosis after a sprain:

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A person may have trouble bending or straightening the knee.

Feeling of knee instability may be particularly noticeable during activities that strain the knee, such as going down stairs or pivoting on one leg.

The knee may feel as if it is about to give out.

Instability is usually associated with more severe MCL tears..

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Risk Factors For Knee Sprains

The biggest single risk factor for a knee sprain is activity. If youre an athlete, youre more likely to overstretch one of the knee ligaments due to the high level of activity in which you participate.

Youre at a greater risk if youre a casual, part-time athlete whos out of condition. Sprains and strains are very common in weekend warriors.

Youre also at risk if you dont cool down and stretch after workouts, or warm up before them.

Specifically, the following activities may put you at risk for particular knee sprains:

  • ACL sprains: If you play basketball, football, soccer, or rugby if youre a gymnast, dancer, competitive cheerleader, or wrestler or if you ski. Women and girls also have an increased risk of ACL injury.
  • MCL sprains: If you play football, hockey, rugby, or soccer also, if you engage in activities that could involve lower leg twisting motions when you fall .
  • PCL sprains: If you play basketball, football, soccer, or rugby. Any sudden, hard kneeling motion could also hurt the PCL .

When Will I Feel Better After A Knee Ligament Injury

Your recovery time will depend on how bad the injury is. People also heal at different rates.

In most cases, physical therapy can help to limit problems and speed up your recovery. If you have an ACL tear, your doctor may recommend this after surgery.


While you recover, if your medical team agrees, you could take up a new activity that won’t hurt your knee. For instance, runners could try swimming.

Whatever you do, don’t rush things. You shouldnt go back to your old level of physical activity until:

  • Your doctor says its OK for you to take part.
  • You can fully bend and straighten the knee without pain.
  • The knee doesnt hurt when you walk, jog, sprint, or jump.
  • Its no longer swollen.
  • The injured knee is as strong as the uninjured knee.

If you start to use your knee before it’s healed, you could cause permanent damage.

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What Is A Knee Strain Or Sprain

A knee strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is torn or stretched. The tendons are fibrous cords that connect muscles to bones.

A knee sprain occurs when the ligaments in the knee joint stretch or tear. Ligaments connect the bones of your lower leg to the bones in your thigh together in your knee joints.

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Rehabilitation varies based on the injured ligament and how it is treated. The most important part of the healing process is getting you back to normal before resuming activities.

Rehabilitation will include a light to moderate physical therapy program, depending on your level of pain. This is necessary to improve joint stability, full range of motion and your knee strength. Recovery time is dependent on the ligament injured and the severity of the injury.

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When To See A Doctor

Most people can manage a mild knee sprain at home and recover fully with home exercises. However, it is important to get the opinion of a medical professional if you suspect your knee injury is something more serious. How can you tell if your symptoms are worthy of a visit to the doctor? Here are some telltale signs that your knee injury needs to be looked at:4

  • Your knee is locked
  • You have severe pain and/or significant swelling
  • You cannot put weight on the injured leg
  • Your knee buckles
  • You have sharp pain in a specific location
  • Your symptoms do not improve with home remedies

Knee Sprains: Causes Risk Factors And Symptoms

Have you ever landed funny when making a jump shot in basketball and felt something pop inside your knee? Or maybe youve smacked your knee hard on a coffee table been checked against the wall playing hockey or twisted, pivoted, or side-hopped awkwardly while skiing, dancing, or playing any number of sports.

Suddenly you find your knee hurts and its buckling under your weight. Maybe you even go down, tripping in the stairs or collapsing on the playing field or court. Within a few hours, you may notice swelling and tenderness, and possibly some limited mobility in the knee.

If this has happened to you recently, you may have a knee sprain: an injury affecting one of the four main ligamentsstrong bands of connective tissuethat pass through the knee joint and connect your upper leg bone to your lower leg bones.

The Four Ligaments of the Knee

The four ligaments of the knee are:

  • Posterior cruciate ligament . Anterior means front. Posterior means back. The PCL crosses through the joint and controls the backward motion of the shin. Its a stronger ligament than the ACL and is less commonly injured. PCL sprains are usually not as painful and disabling as ACL sprains. Often they can heal on their own.

The knee is at the crux of everything active people do: walking, running, jumping, climbing, bending the leg, kneeling, and kicking. Thus its the most commonly injured body part among athletes, especially high school athletes.

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Recovery From A Knee Strain Or Sprain

It is important to work with your physician closely before you return to your everyday routine. When recovered, you should be able to perform simple exercises such as squatting, running, side to side motions and jumping without pain.

A mild sprain is healed after six weeks of resting and treating the knee. A severe strain or sprain can take as long as three to four months. The exact recovery time will depend on the treatment plan that your doctor and physical therapist recommend for you as well as the nature of the injury.

How Is A Knee Sprain Diagnosed

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Your healthcare provider will ask about your injury and examine you. Tell him or her if you heard a snap or pop when you were injured. Your provider will check the movement and strength of your joint. You may be asked to move the joint. You may also need any of the following:

  • An x-ray, CT scan or MRI may show the sprain or other damage. You may be given contrast liquid to help your injury show up better in the pictures. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast liquid. Do not enter the MRI room with anything metal. Metal can cause serious injury. Tell the healthcare provider if you have any metal in or on your body.
  • Arthroscopy is a procedure to look inside your joint with a scope. The scope is a long tube with a magnifying glass, a camera, and a light on the end.

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Diagnosing And Treating A Leg Sprain In Dogs

Again, even if your dogs sprain appears to be mild, with little to no real symptoms, you shouldnt skip a trip to your vet. Especially if your dogs symptoms continue beyond 48 hours. Your vet will be able to thoroughly examine your dog, using manual palpations of your dogs bones and joints to check for warmth, swelling, pain, and whether or not anything feels out of place. They will evaluate how well your dog is moving and walking, and how well they perform other activities, like sitting or lying down.

Your vet may also order X-rays or other imaging tests to get a clearer picture of what might be going on. X-rays can help your vet rule out other health issues, such as broken bones, hairline fractures, or bone degeneration related to aging and canine arthritis. For assessing tissue damage, your vet may want an ultrasound or MRI done.

A vet may give your dogs sprain a grade of 1,2, or 3. This grade assesses how well your dogs joint is moving in comparison to your dogs other legs. If your dog only has a grade 1 sprained leg, it means the joint is moving pretty normally, and your dog most likely will still be walking, despite some possible swelling or pain.

If your dog receives a grade 2 for the sprained leg, it means your vet can feel some looseness. There will most likely be quite a bit of swelling, and your dog might walk but appear to be limping and in pain. With a grade 2 sprain, the joint isnt functioning completely.

Whats The Difference Between Acl Tear And Acl Sprain

An ACL injury is a sprain or tear of the ACL that happens to most people while they play sports. Your ACL is a tissue band of ligaments that hold the knee bones together.

The function of the ACL is to prevent your shinbone from sliding out in front of your thighbone . Because of this, ACL injuries can be painful and debilitating.

There is a risk for an ACL injury in activities involving jumping and landing, sudden stops, or changes in direction .

Many patients noted that they remember hearing or feeling a pop in their knee at the time of the injury. Typically the knee will swell, feel unstable, and be too painful to bear weight.

For some, a mild ACL injury may be treated with rest and physical therapy. This combination may help you recover your knee stability and strength. In more severe cases, surgery may be needed to replace the torn ligament, followed by physical therapy.

The Difference Between an ACL Tear and ACL Sprain

An ACL injury is either a tear or sprain. An ACL tear is when the ACL is actually torn. The tear can be complete or partial. An ACL sprain is when the ACL is overstretched .

ACL Injury Grades

The severity of the ACL injury is graded from 1 to 3.

Grade 1: The ligament is intact, and the joint is stable, but there is minimal stretching and some microscopic tearing of the ACL. Surgery is typically not needed.

Chances are you have an ACL tear if you heard a loud pop in your knee when you were injured, followed by swelling, pain, and knee instability.

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Symptoms Of Mcl Sprains And Tears

Ligament injuries account for 40 percent of injuries to the knee, and strains or tears of the medial collateral ligament are the most common.1,2 A person who experiences an MCL injury typically reports a combination of the following symptoms:

  • A popping sound when the injury occurs. This sound is usually a sign of a grade II or grade III tear.
  • Immediate sharp pain from the inner section of the knee.
  • Immediate swelling at the inner knee. Swelling may increase and spread to the actual knee joint 1 or 2 days following injury.
  • Tenderness around the inner knee. This area may be painful to the touch.
  • Increased pain a few hours after the injury.
  • Bruising around the knee, especially around the location of the MCL .
  • Noticeable looseness in the knee. A person may be able to feel looseness around the inner knee when walking. The knee may feel as if it has a greater range of motion than normal.
  • Knee stiffness may make walking, sitting down, rising from a chair or climbing stairs difficult. A person may have trouble bending or straightening the knee.
  • Feeling of knee instability may be particularly noticeable during activities that strain the knee, such as going down stairs or pivoting on one leg. The knee may feel as if it is about to give out. Instability is usually associated with more severe MCL tears.
  • Pain when bearing weight, such as when walking, sitting down, or rising from a chair.

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A knee sprain usually occurs due to unnatural movements during physical activity. Sudden turns or pivoting can cause injury to your ligaments. Knee sprains are common in sports with lots of running, jumping, and turning, such as in football, basketball, and skiing. Direct hits to the knee can also cause knee sprains.

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What Causes A Knee Sprain

A sudden twisting of the knee joint may cause a knee sprain. This may happen when you run, jump, and land, or stop or change direction suddenly. Knee sprains commonly occur during physical activity but can occasionally happen at other times. Physical activities that place pressure on your knee joints and ligaments are the most likely to cause a sprain. Common activities for knee sprains include football, basketball, hockey, skiing, and wrestling.

Direct hits to the knee may also cause a sprain. Sprains may be caused by hits to the front, sides, or back of the knee. This type of sprain can happen with an unexpected tumble or a bump into a metal object, wall, or strong piece of furniture. If you fall while your knee is bent, for instance, falling down the stairs or slipping on a piece of ice, a sprain can occur. Car accidents are another situation where knee sprains occur, as your legs are bent while driving or riding in a car.

Common Causes Of Swelling After A Severe Knee Injury Include:

  • A tear of the ACL
  • Injury to the articular cartilage.
  • Over 70% of athletes with a swollen knee who felt a pop while running and pivoting will have an ACL tear or a patella dislocation. Patella dislocations are more common than you think. All of you dread an ACL tear. But most of you are surprised when we see you in the office and tell you that your kneecap dislocated. Most dislocated kneecaps will reduce spontaneously on the field. That means that the kneecap will go back into place on its own.

    Patellar dislocations may hurt just as much as an ACL tear. Because patella dislocations are such a common sports injury we wrote this post to go into far more detail about them.

    With any of the above issues, most of you will find it very difficult to walk without severe knee pain. Crutches, icing, and elevation are beneficial in these cases. These knee joint injuries need to be evaluated for an X-ray. Fractures are rare, but they do occur. Very few knee injuries will require a brace unless you want to use it for comfort. The most important reason for seeing a sports medicine physician after an injury that causes swelling is to look for these most common severe injuries.

    Many of these severe knee joint injuries should be evaluated sooner rather than later. The initial treatment will be a reliable examination to arrive at a diagnosis, which will be followed with an MRI to confirm the diagnosis. Depending on what we think you injured, we may consider rest, physical therapy, or surgery.

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