The knee joint is supported by several ligaments that are bone to bone connectors. These connectors provide stability and control movements in the knee. When a ligament is stretched (partial tear), torn or damaged in an injury, it is called a knee sprain. Anyone can experience a knee sprain injury, but it is more common in running athletes and contact sports. For optimum recovery, those with knee sprains should seek treatment from a knee specialist.
Knee sprains can vary from slight stretches of a ligament, to severe stretches, and finally compete tears. There are four main ligaments in the knee joint that provide support to the inside and outside of the knee. All four connect the lower femur with the top of the lower leg bones. Each provides different directions of support. These ligaments include the ACL, PCL, MCL and LCL. Any of these ligaments can be torn or stretched when the knee twists or sustains a blow from different directions – when the injury is severe, more than one ligament can be damaged.
Symptoms and Treatment for Knee Sprain Injuries
A knee sprain usually occurs when the knee is forced to move in an abnormal direction. Changing direction when running can twist the knee and result in a knee sprain. Blows to the knee during an accident or while playing sports can also force the knee compartments out of alignment, tearing the knee ligaments. Symptoms of a knee sprain include:
- Popping sound or sensation during the injury
- Pain – but not all ligament sprains cause pain initially
- Knee buckling or lack of stability
Mild knee sprains may only need rest, ice and immobilization treatment to allow the ligament to heal. More severe sprains could require a knee brace, physical therapy or other treatments to allow healing, and restore strength. If the ligament is completely torn, it may require surgery to repair the ligament.