As you can imagine, in Michigan’s Winter Wonderland, we see our fair share of injuries. With the various winter sports available here in northern Michigan, knee injuries tend to be amongst the most common injury we see and treat this time of year.
At Great Lakes Orthopaedic Center (GLOC), our board-certified knee specialists regularly treat all ages of patients with state-of-the-art surgical and nonsurgical solutions. The treatment our specialists will recommend for you depends upon several things, such as your injury severity, your overall health, your activity level, and your age.
The Knee Joint
Being the largest and second-to-the-lowest major joint in your body, the knee joint injures easily due to its complexity and enormous absorption of force and stress. The joint is comprised of four main parts:
• Bones––Three bones form the knee joint: femur/thighbone, tibia/shinbone, and patella/kneecap. (The fibula/smaller lower leg bone does not play an active role in the joint.)
• Cartilage––Cartilage is a connective tissue providing support and flexibility in your joint. Articular (joint surface) and meniscus are the two types of cartilage in your knee. The articular cartilage helps your knee bones move smoothly across each other when you bend or straighten your leg. The meniscus operates like shock absorbers between the bones.
• Ligaments––Ligaments act like rope in your knee, connecting your bones with one another. The collateral ligaments are located on the sides allowing for sideways stability, while the cruciate ligaments are inside and cross one another, allowing for back-and-forth and rotational stability.
• Tendons––Tendons connect your muscles to your bones. In your knee you have the quadriceps tendon connecting your front thigh muscles to your patella, and you have the patellar tendon connecting your shinbone to your patella.
These parts take daily abuse with blows, twists, turns, and landings. Add winter-sports activities like skiing, skating, and snowboarding to the mix, and it is easy to understand how any of these parts can be hurt or damaged.
Which Are the Most Common Knee Injuries?
The five most common knee injuries (the majority from intense winter sports) we tend to see and treat at GLOC at this time of year are:
1. Fracture. Our specialists typically see fractured kneecaps, or fractures involving the upper end of the tibia or the lower end of the femur. We frequently see this resulting from a sudden fall directly on the knee or an unusual or stressful bend in the knee.
2. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. As with any other injury, our specialists see varying levels of ACL injury. The ACL can be stretched or it can be entirely torn, or everything in between. We frequently see this resulting from the leg making a quick and intense change of direction at the knee.
3. Meniscus tear. Like the ACL injury, there are varying degrees of the tear. We frequently see this injury resulting from the leg making a sudden twisting, cutting, or pivoting action. This can also sometimes appear as pain in the knee without a specific injury.
4. Dislocation. A dislocation of the knee happens when the knee bones separate, usually when the patella is knocked off to one side of the joint. We frequently see this resulting from the leg making a sudden twisting or direct-impact action.
5. Patellar tendinitis. Tendinitis is an irritation to or inflammation of a tendon. In this case it is the patellar tendon. We frequently see this resulting from repeated bending of the knee and leg actions associated with great intensity, very unusual angles, or repeated jumping.
What Is the Treatment?
Depending on the cause and type of knee injury, treatment obviously varies. In general, for immediate treatment use R.I.C.E.––rest, ice, compression, elevation. This may be enough for some injuries. For other knee injuries, medication and rest may suffice to manage the inflammation and pain. Yet others may require a brace. Still others may need physical therapy. Usually as a last resort, surgery can be a definitive treatment for these injuries. We always recommend contacting our board-certified knee specialists for an evaluation and guidance.
Is There Any Way to Prevent These Injuries?
Especially when it comes to winter sports, some knee injuries can be prevented with appropriate safety precautions. Here are a few our knee specialists recommend:
• Know and follow safety regulations
• Stretch or warm up prior to playing your sport
• Wear appropriate protective gear
• Get in good physical shape before partaking in active winter sports
• Learn proper falling techniques
• Recognize when you are tired and stop (injuries commonly occur after this point)
At GLOC we treat knee injuries on a regular basis, especially those resulting from winter sports. Call us today at 800.203.0044 for guidance if you have a knee injury.