Knee Injuries: How to Know When it’s Serious

MARCH 22, 2018

Red Sox Injury Insider March 2018

With baseball season upon us, three Red Sox players remain hopeful of returning to the field. Second baseman Dustin Pedroia and pitchers Steven Wright and Eduardo Rodriguez all underwent knee surgeries last year to repair torn cartilage, with the expectation of being Major League-ready by May or June.

“The recovery and rehabilitation time after a cartilage restoration procedure really depends on the individual,” said Kathryn Grannatt, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in BIDMC’s sports medicine division and chief of orthopaedics at BID-Needham. “For most cartilage tears, the recovery is anywhere from two to six months.”

Sudden changes in speed or direction while running can often cause painful tears in cartilage or ligaments of the knee. An impact against the knee or a sudden twist of the joint—like the kind of turn a baseball player makes while rounding the bases—can also cause injury.

Knee injuries aren’t limited to only professional athletes. How can you know if a bumped knee, small “pop” or slight tweak is something to be concerned about? Read below for five symptoms of a serious knee injury.

  • Your knee is swollen. Swelling in the knee immediately after an injury often indicates something serious. “In many cases the swelling is actually blood,” Grannatt said. “The bleeding will stop, but the swelling will remain.” Common causes of swelling after a serious knee injury include a tear of the ACL or a patella dislocation. “If your knee immediately swells after injury, you should call your doctor,” Grannatt said.
  • Your knee feels locked. If you’re unable to straighten your knee completely after impact, you may have a meniscus tear. “Not all meniscus tears require surgery,” Grannatt said. “A small flap tear in the meniscus can often be rehabilitated in physical therapy.”
  • You felt a pop. Or maybe you even heard a pop. “This isn’t like the sound of cracking a knuckle,” Grannatt said. “We’re talking about a loud, painful pop during an awkward landing or impact. This often indicates a serious knee injury.”
  • It hurts to put weight on it. Experiencing pain while trying to walk after an injury is somewhat of a generic complaint. But many injuries can be serious enough to cause pain when you try to put pressure on the injured leg. “If your knee pain is making it difficult to walk, call your doctor,” Grannatt said.
  • Your knee buckles under pressure. Another indication of a serious injury is the feeling of your knee giving out when you walk. It might not be painful, but instability in the joint is often a sign of ligament damage. “True instability with activities can risk further damage,” Grannatt said. “So don’t play through it. Seek advice from your doctor.”

You may not be a pro athlete, but a knee injury can make some of the simplest everyday tasks much more difficult. Be sure to seek proper treatment so your current injury doesn’t become a chronic problem.

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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