Being a lifelong athlete can take its toll on your body. By now, you can probably recognize when an injury just needs to be walked off, or if it’s something more serious. For competitive athletes, knee injuries are some of the worst there are. It can be difficult to tell if what you felt on the field is worthy of a hospital visit. Sometimes wishful thinking can keep you from going to the doctor to find out what’s really wrong. To prevent you from missing what could be serious, look for these telltale signs that your knee injury could be serious.
1. Your knee is locked
It’s possible to tear the inner cartilage of your knee (the medial meniscus) in such a way that the fragment piece can float into the center of your knee and block motion. These types of cartilage tears are know as “bucket-handle” meniscus tears and often require surgery. Milder or frequent forms of knee locking or catching can also signal other types of meniscus tears.
2. Your knee is swollen
Generally speaking, it’s not unusual for your knee to have a little fluid on it. However, if your knee swells up like a basketball in the first few hours after your injury, you may have an ACL tear or a fracture. If it appears to be fine after your injury, but swells up the following day, this could signal a meniscus injury.
3. You can’t put weight on it
Experiencing pain while trying to walk is somewhat of a generic complaint. More serious injuries can be characterized by pain when you try to bear weight or put any pressure on the injured leg. This is a sign that you need to seek medical attention right away.
4. Your knee gave out
If you were playing a sport like soccer or basketball, and you felt your knee buckle when you landed from a jump or changed direction quickly, you may have suffered ligament damage. These injuries could affect the ACL, MCL, or PCL. Additionally, if your knee is giving out during landing or twisting movements in sports weeks or months after your injury, you should see a sports medicine doctor. Knee instability can risk further damage to the cartilage or other ligaments.
5. You can’t extend your knee fully
Knee range of motion can become difficult after acute injuries because of pain, swelling, and inflammation. If you still cannot fully straighten your leg several days after an injury, it may be time to consult a sports medicine specialist. In some circumstances you may be walking around with an injury you don’t know you have.
6. Your knee hurts in a specific location
Serious knee injuries can cause pain in a very specific way and location. People with meniscus tears usually complain about pain along the joint line, rather than throughout the knee. Medical meniscus tears hurt along the inside of the knee, while later meniscus tears cause pain along the outside of the knee. Stress fractures on the other hand usually cause localized pain on the bone at the site of the fracture.
Next time you feel an unusual sensation in your knee, keep these signs in mind when observing if your knee injury is serious or not. The best way to find out if it’s something to worry about is to go to the doctor. Another way to keep your joints healthy with or without injuries is by adding an all natural joint supplement to your daily diet. Joint supplements can help decrease inflammation, reduce pain levels, and help lubricate the joints.*