Torn Meniscus/ACL – Knee injuries are quite common in accidents. It is common for one to twist their knee while forcibly trying to apply the brakes to avoid a collision or during an unexpected slip and fall. The knee is a complex joint with many components, making it vulnerable to a variety of injuries. Many knee injuries can be successfully treated without surgery, while others require surgery to correct.

The following are some facts about the knee from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:

The knee is the largest joint in the body, and one of the most easily injured. It is made up of the lower end of the thighbone (femur), which rotates on the upper end of the shinbone (tibia), and the knee cap (patella), which slides in a groove on the end of the femur. The knee also contains large ligaments, which help control motion by connecting bones and by bracing the joint against abnormal types of motion. Another important structure, the meniscus, is a wedge of soft cartilage between the femur and tibia that serves to cushion the knee and helps it absorb shock during motion.

The four major ligament injuries are described below:

  • ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injury – Changing direction rapidly in an accident may cause tears in the ACL. A twisting injury in a motor vehicle crash or a slip and fall are common causes.
  • MCL (Medial Cruciate Ligament) injury – Injuries to the MCL are usually caused by a direct blow to the outside of the knee. One’s knee hitting the interior in a car accident or the outside of the knee striking the floor during a fall is a common cause.
  • PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) injury – During an accident the PCL can be injured when a motorist receives a blow to the front of the knee such as when the knee hits the dashboard, or during a slip and fall when the front of the knee hits the floor directly.
  • Torn cartilage – When people talk about torn knee cartilage, they are usually referring to a torn meniscus. The mensicus is a tough, rubbery cartilage that is attached to the knee’s ligaments. The meniscus acts like a shock absorber. Tears in the meniscus can occur when twisting, cutting, pivoting, or decelerating.

Orthopedic surgeons use a variety of methods to treat knee injuries in athletes. A common method used to treat mild knee injuries is R.I.C.E., which stands for “rest, ice, compression, and elevation.” Rest the knee by staying off it or walking only with crutches. Apply ice to control swelling. Use a compressive elastic bandage applied snugly, but loosely enough so that it does not cause pain. Finally, keep the knee elevated.

The most important advice is to seek treatment as soon as possible, especially if you:

  • Hear a popping noise and feel your knee give out at the time of injury,
  • Have severe pain,
  • Cannot move the knee or begin limping,
  • Have swelling at the injury site or,
  • If the knee does not respond to conservative measures, then surgery may be warranted.

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