6 Telltale Signs Your Knee Injury Is Serious

signs of a serious knee injury

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.*

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Comments 24

  1. Hi so yesterday I had soccer game and I had to jump in the air for a header. I landed first with m right leg and I landed bad. My knee gave out and it had no feelings in it . I couldn’t move until like 2 min later and I walked it off . I felt like it got twisted or sprain but I continued to play with pain . Not sure what’s it can be or what I should do .

  2. Thank you for the information in addition to the detailed examples provided.

    – I will wait till my tele-call with my orthopedic surgeon tomorrow for his opinion.

    However with this information I can speak intelligently to my symptoms.

    Kind regards

  3. Hi, I twisted my knee last night. I can’t put weight on it. Severe pain on the inside when I try to walk. We are staying in our home because of the Corona Virus. I have asthma and other health conditions and my husband had opened heart surgery last December. Beside the recommended treatment for knee which I am doing, staying off it, ice, elevating, Is there anything else I do at home to speed up recovery??? Any ideas how long it takes to heal???
    Thank you for any information I really appreciate any advice!

    1. Hi Carolyn,
      We would recommend consulting your physician. Many medical professionals are offering teleconferencing at this time. Unfortunately, we are unable to give medical advice, but we do hope you recover promptly!

  4. I slipped about 6 months ago, and twisted my knee, and ankle on the same leg. I also have an irritated acetabulofemoral joint. So sometimes, I’m not sure if some of the knee pain is actually the joint pain. I have difficulty sleeping on either side. The pain runs on both sides of the knee, sometimes the back of the knee and down my front of my shin. I tried walking when it began feeling better, but it reignites the pain to a higher level. Now that the weather is getting better, I really want to be able to get out and enjoy. What should be doing to recover?

    1. Hi Brenda,
      We recommend consulting your physician for this type of information. Many medical professionals are offering teleconferencing at this time. Unfortunately, we are unable to give medical advice, but we do hope you recover quickly!

  5. I hurt my knee around 6 months ago in a arcade, when I landed from a jump my knee gave out and I was in intense pain but if went away a couple hours after I got home but every now and then it would pop in and out when i would put too much weight on it, I would rest and it would be fine again and I could walk normally.
    2 weeks ago I was exercising with friends and I did a cartwheel and my knee gave out again but worse this time, I still can barely put pressure on it and strecht it 100%.

    The first time it gave out I went to the doctors and I’ve had xrays and ulstrasounds for it and it shows nothing

  6. Hi,
    I hit my knee on the the edge of a wooden chair. My knee hurts extremely bad when I walk, stand and apply pressure on it. In addition, to extending my leg and in a bending position when sitting. In your opinion, when should I seek medical attention?

    1. We say to get it checked out. At least schedule a tele-appointment with your doctor if there has been no improvement. Best of luck!

  7. Hi I fell and did a direct hit on my knee a couple weeks ago. I have been doing RICE religiously. There is no pain associated with the injury, except for where fluid still is. It feels tight and there is definitely a small sac of fluid next to the kneecap. I am wondering, will my body absorb this fluid in time? It has definitely improved, I just don’t know how long it takes to go away on its own, if it does. Or, should I consider going to the doctor to have it drained at this point? I just really don’t want to go near a hospital at this time with covid-19 if I don’t have to. So. my question is…how long is too long to wait? Thanks.

  8. Hello,

    This May sounds silly but I’ve always had a hard time touching my toes. I decided to do various stretches found on the internet to help flexibility to be able to touch my toes. I did this for about 30 min to an hour. 30 min later the back of my knees felt on fire. I placed ice. The next day the back of my knees hurt a little. But I was able to walk. The next day the pain radiated to the front bottom and top of knee, sides, and back. Now I’m unable to fully extend my leg and can barely walk. I keep Alternating with ice and heat, I’m on day 3 of prednisone. Taking extra strength Tylenol. Today is day 5 or 6 and I still can’t walk with out a shuffle and can’t stand up straight or straighten my back while walking without pain or feeling like I’ll irritate my knee. What do you think is going on, what should I do or am I doing what I need to do already? I’m just worried it may be something serious.

  9. I was hit by a car that ran red light on 1/4/20. I had the right of way and looked both ways before crossing. As soon as I did, a car that was doing almost 50 in a 25 hit grazed me pretty badly on the inside of my right knee. A huge hematoma appeared within minites.

    Now that the hematoma is almost completely gone, I experience extreme knee pain amd locking sometimes when sitting down or simply bending my knee.

    Is it possible that my patella was partially dislocated?


  10. I do not remember hurting my knee but I am in pain 24/7 I am taking 30/500 kapa pain killers every day my whole knee is very tender and the back of it is so bad that when I sit on my bum and stretch my legs out my Left leg sits about 3in of the floor as I cannot put pressure on it to force it down

  11. Hello, I landed very heavy on my knee 3 days ago and the pain is getting significantly worse. My entire knee at the front, my shin and side of my calf are in agony with bruising popping up along the leg and my knee is hot to touch, is likely to mend without medical intervention?

  12. A few days ago I jumped in the air an came down an heard a crackle in my knee it hurt at first an had trouble walking only for a min an I was ok still hurt but I continued an finished my workout the next morning I wake up an it’s very swollen an can’t bend my knee the pain is getting better a day later but still swollen I have previously torn my acl 3 times before this an dose not feel the same as the other 3 dose anyone have an idea what this could be could it be acl agin but since I have had 2 surgeries already not have much feeling I just dong know.

  13. I had a experience where a 120kg patient sat on my knee when we put her back in bed. My knee where bend and when she sat I heard a snap or popping sound and it is still very painfull with movement and bending.

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