Knee Injuries

As most athletes know, knees can take a lot of abuse during sports — sometimes to the point of frustration. At Henry Ford, we’re experts in managing knee pain and the stress that comes with it. Over the years, our sports medicine team has performed countless studies on ACL tears and other knee injuries in professional and amateur athletes, as well as innovative strategies to manage and alleviate pain more effectively during the recovery process. So whether it’s nagging knee pain from years of jogging or a sudden ACL tear sustained during a football game, our board-certified orthopedic surgeons and athletic trainers are dedicated to providing care and treatment designed to get you back on the field, court, slopes or dance floor as soon and as safely as possible.

Common knee injuries

  • ACL sprain/tear

    The ACL (short for anterior cruciate ligament) is one of four ligaments in the knee that provides stability, allowing the knee to flex and extend. Typically, the ACL tears when the foot is firmly planted in place and the knee locks and twists or pivots at the same time, making them common in sports like football, basketball, soccer and gymnastics.

    Symptoms

    • An audible “pop” in the knee
    • Intense knee pain, swelling
    • A loss of range in motion

    Average recovery time

    6-9 months.

  • MCL sprain/tear

    Located on the inside of the knee, the medial collateral ligament (MCL) connects your tibia (shinbone) to the top of the bottom of the femur (thighbone). MCL tears typically occur after an exterior blow to the knee (often during contact sports) or when landing after a jump. Most MCL injuries heal on their own and do not require surgery.

    Symptoms

    • An audible “pop” in the knee
    • Intense pain
    • Stiffness
    • Swelling
    • The knee catches or locks when moving

    Average recovery time

    A few days to 8 weeks.

  • Meniscal tear

    The menisci are two discs of soft cartilage located between your tibia (thighbone) and femur (shinbone) that act as your knee’s shock absorbers. Meniscus tears often occur as result of abrupt movements like pivots, stops, turns, squats or lifts, which makes tennis and basketball players particularly susceptible.

    Symptoms

    • A popping sensation
    • Stiffness
    • Swelling
    • Knee pain while turning, twisting or pivoting

    Average recovery time

    1-3 months.

  • Kneecap dislocation

    In sports, the kneecap (patella) often dislocates or shifts out of place as a result of a direct hit to the knee or from a sudden twist or pivoting of the leg.

    Symptoms

    • A buckling of the knee
    • The kneecap slides off to the side
    • Pain
    • Stiffness
    • Cracking or creaking in the knee

    Average recovery time

    6-16 weeks.

  • Patellar tendonitis

    The patellar tendon connects the bottom of the kneecap (patella) to the top of the tibia (shinbone). Patellar tendonitis — also known as Jumper’s Knee (a common injury in basketball and volleyball players) — occurs when the patellar tendon becomes inflamed, often as a result of overuse, excessive force or repetitive stress on the knee.

    Symptoms

    • Pain
    • Tenderness
    • Swelling
    • A burning sensation in the kneecap

    Average recovery time

    A few days to several months.

  • Knee bursitis

    The bursa is a small fluid-filled sac located near the knee joint. Knee bursitis occurs when the bursa becomes inflamed, often as a result of an injury to the knee or, more commonly, overuse from frequent kneeling.

    Symptoms

    • The knee feels warm, tender or swollen when pressure is applied

    Average recovery time

    2 to 8 weeks.

Common Knee Injuries

Appropriate treatment is key.

When to see a doctor

Knee pain that comes on slowly, or as a result of activity that's more strenuous than usual, can be managed at home with the R.I.C.E. method (rest, ice, compression and elevation) or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine.

If you've had minor knee pain for some time and if the pain worsens to the point that it interferes with your usual activities or sleep, make an appointment with your doctor.

See a doctor immediately if your knee pain was caused by a particularly forceful impact or if it's accompanied by:

  • Significant swelling
  • Redness
  • Tenderness and warmth around the joint
  • Significant pain
  • Fever

Request an appointment with an orthopedic specialist

How we treat knee injuries

Every year, thousands of professional and amateur athletes throughout southeast and south central Michigan choose Henry Ford for knee treatment. Why? For starters, our experienced team of orthopedic specialists, physical therapists and athletic trainers is consistently trained to perform the most advanced therapies and procedures, including non-invasive methods to reduce chronic pain and minimally invasive surgeries that minimize recovery time.

When you arrive at Henry Ford for knee treatment, you’ll be evaluated by one of our highly qualified knee specialists who will determine the severity of your injury and the next steps to get you back in the game.

With primary care sports medicine physicians, sports medicine orthopedic surgeons and a wide range of doctors with special training and experience in treating a wide range of knee injuries, Henry Ford is a leader in providing comprehensive treatment plans to help your knee injury heal quickly and safely, from your initial diagnosis to recovery.

Treatment options

  • Non-Surgical Treatments

    R.I.C.E. method (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) — When a knee injury first occurs, patients should rest the affected area to prevent further injury from occurring; ice it to reduce pain; compress it to reduce swelling; and elevate the injured knee above the heart to also reduce pain, swelling, and recovery time.

    Physical Therapy — Many knee injuries can be treated with physical therapy, either on its own or in conjunction with surgery. For recovering patients, Henry Ford’s rehabilitation team takes a multidisciplinary approach, combining exercise and strength training with manual therapy at more than 20 outpatient facilities across southeast and south central Michigan.

    Anti-inflammatory medication — Over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol, Advil, Motrin and Aleve can often help reduce knee pain from minor sprains and aid in initial recovery.

  • Surgical Treatments

    Knee Arthroscopy — A knee arthroscopy is typically used to diagnose and treat knee injuries like a torn meniscus, torn ACL, dislocated knee or a cartilage injury. During the procedure, a surgeon inserts a small camera (arthroscope) in your knee joint to evaluate the inner structures of the knee.

    ACL Reconstruction — An ACL reconstruction is necessary when the ACL tears completely. During the procedure, a surgeon will remove the torn ACL from your knee and replace it with new tissue.

    Microfracture Surgery — During knee microfracture surgery, a surgeon makes a series of small holes (microfractures) in the bone near damaged cartilage. This is often used to repair damaged knee cartilage or to potentially avoid knee replacement surgery.

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