by Kimberly Allen, RN
Summer is over and schools are back in session and football as well as other sports are also back. Every year in the US 46.5 million children participate in sports. And believe it or not 1 out of every 3 of those children participating in sports will have an injury that is severe enough to cause them to miss practice and/or games. Actually 62% of most sports related injuries occur during practice, not in games.
There are a variety of sports related injuries ranging from sprains and strains to bone or growth plate injuries as well as repetitive motion and heat related injuries. However, 55% of all sports related injuries occur in the knee. And believe it or not girls are eight times more likely to sustain an ACL injury than boys.
The knee is the largest joint in your body. It not only provides stability but allows your legs to bend, straighten and swivel. Your knee is mad of bones, cartilage,and ligaments as well as muscles and tendons. The bones that house your knee are the femur, tibia and patella, also known as the knee cap. Articular cartilage covers the ends of both the femur and the patella cushioning them and preventing them from grinding against each other. The tibia is covered in a cartilage called menisci. The menisci provides extra padding and helps absorb your body’s weight.
The muscles that surround your knee are the quadriceps in the front of your thigh, which helps you straighten and extend your leg, and the hamstring on the back of your thigh which helps you bend your knee.
The tendons are the strong bands of tissue that connect your muscles to your bones and the ligaments are the cords that secures bone to bone and cartilage to bone.
In your knee there are 4 ligaments that help keep your legs stable and connect your femur to your tibia. They are the medial cruciate ligament or MCL, lateral cruciate ligament or LCL, the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL and the posterior cruciate ligament or PCL. The MCL runs along the inside of your knee connecting your femur and tibia. It is responsible for stabilizing your inner knee and maintaining alignment when you bend your knee and controlling the sideways motion of your knee. The LCL runs along the outside of your knee connecting your femur and tibia. It is also responsible for restricting the sideways motion of your knee as well as stabilizing your outer knee and preventing it from bending backwards. The ACL runs through the center of your knee connecting your femur and tibia. It’s responsibility is to restrict your knees rotation. The PCL runs down the back of your knee connecting your femur and tibia. It restricts the backward movement of your knee preventing the shinbone from sliding out under your femur.
Common Reasons for Knee Injuries
With all those parts in your knee to ensure proper movement comes numerous ways to injure your knee. Most knee injuries are caused by repetitive motions like those seen in sports as well as sudden stops and/or turns and direct blows to your knee. The most common injuries seen are sprains and strains as well as tendinitis and meniscus tears. There are also fractures and dislocations as well as cartilage and ligament injuries to name a few.
Treating Knee Injuries
Treatment of knee injuries depends on the type and severity of the injury. For most mild injuries doctor’s recommend the R-I-C-E protocol. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. Which means you need to rest your knee as much as you can and apply ice to reduce swelling, wrap your knee in an ace wrap and elevate your leg above the level of your heart. If you have a more serious type of injury you doctor may recommend you to an orthopedic surgeon for further evaluation and treatment.
Preventing Knee Injuries
It’s a lot less hassle and a lot less painful if you work on preventing knee injuries from the beginning. While accidents do happen there are some things you can do to reduce the risk of injury. first if you are participating in sports be sure you are wearing the proper equipment from shin guards and knee pads to helmets. Remember the stronger the muscles around your knee the more stable it is. It’s important to use a combination of weight lifting and stretching to keep all the working parts of your knee strong and flexible. It is also important to always warm up and cool down. If you are trying to increase the intensity of your workouts be sure to increase in increments to prevent over use injuries. Also, depending on your sport there are techniques you can learn to help you get the maximum function out of your knee while preventing injury.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.