Most people have fallen at some point in their lives, and you may have injured your knee in the process. There is a range of ways you can injure your knee when you fall, from minor inconveniences like bruises to more serious problems, like dislocations, or torn tendons.
We go over the most important things to know about knee injuries from falling, including the types of injuries and how to treat them.
The Most Common Knee Injuries From Falls
Keep in mind that between 1999 and 2008, there were around 6.65 million knee injuries that led to emergency room visits.
Abrasions are the minor injuries you can get from falling. This is the technical name for what most people call scrapes. Abrasions remove the top layer of skin (or multiple layers in more severe cases) if your knee’s skin rubs against cement or another rough surface.
Broken Bones and Fractures
There are several bones in your knees that you may break when you fall, including the patella (knee cap), shin bone (the tibial plateau), and thigh bone (femur). The latter two are more common when you fall on concrete from high up. It is more common to break the kneecap if your knee is at a 90-degree angle when you fall, which means it took your full body weight.
Bruises, known as contusions, are another common yet typically minor injury from falling on your knees. Treatment generally is as simple as elevation, ice, and rest.
It is rare to dislocate your knee from a fall. It is more common if you fall from high up or fall with more energy. You have to be careful with knee dislocations because they can damage the nerves or blood vessels.
A laceration is a technical term for cuts or punctures. This would happen if you fall and hit your knee against something sharp. Lacerations can be minor, but they may also be serious if the cut is deep and involves heavy bleeding.
If one of the four major ligaments in your knee tears from a fall, you will probably need surgery. Otherwise, your knee may not regain its normal functioning.
Your meniscus is cartilage that cushions, separates, and supports the tibia and femur. This type of knee injury can happen with falls, but it is more common with sharp movements. If the tear is serious, it may require surgery.
A sprain happens if your knee’s ligament, which connects your bones, stretches too far. You will need to see a doctor about your sprain if you also notice serious swelling, have extreme pain, or have a reduction in movement.
Of the two tendons in your knee, it is more common to tear the patellar tendon, which connects your shinbone (tibia) and shinbone (patella). You may also tear the quadriceps tendon, which connects the shinbone and quadriceps muscle.
How to Treat Knee Injuries From Falls
The treatment for your knee injury will depend entirely on the severity of the injury. Rest and ice may be enough for minor injuries, while major ones may require surgery. The following are some potential treatments:
Rest and Ice
As mentioned, minor injuries will frequently heal fine with just some rest and ice. This will also help with inflammation and pain. Ideally, you should ice your knee for about 15 or 20 minutes, with three to four hours between icing sessions.
You may also want to take over-the-counter medicines to help with inflammation and pain.
Putting the Knee in Place After Dislocation
In the case of dislocated knees, your doctor will have to pop it back into place. Leave this to the professionals as it requires careful and exact movements.
Braces or Casts
If you break a bone, tear a tendon, or have certain other types of knee injuries, you may need to wear a cast or brace.
Physical therapy can help you bring your strength back up after an injury and regain your normal range of motion.
If you tear a tendon or ligament, you may need an orthopedic surgeon to fix it.
Do You Need to See the Doctor for Knee Injuries From Falling?
Depending on the injury, you may or may not need to see a doctor. If the fall occurs at work, you should always see a doctor as this will provide documentation if you need to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Otherwise, if there is no concern about liability, you can evaluate whether you need to see a doctor based on how your knee looks and feels. You should see the doctor for the knee injury if:
- Your knee is bleeding uncontrollably
- Your cut is swelling, red, or has pus, as you may have an infection
- You heard a pop, as you likely tore a ligament
- Your knee swells, as you may have a fracture or torn ligament
- Your knee feels warm, as this may indicate inflammation
- You cannot put weight on the knee, as this may indicate structural damage
- You cannot straighten your leg
- Your leg moves more or less than normal
- You can see something is not right, i.e., an obvious deformity such as your leg sticking out at an unusual angle
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