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Common Football Injuries: Knee Cartilage Tears

Now that Fall is here, is means it’s time for football. The high-contact nature of this sport means that injuries are common.

In fact, 920,000 athletes under the age of 18 were treated for football-related injuries in 2007. The most common injuries aren’t broken bones or concussions, it’s actually knee injuries.

How Do Knee Injuries Happen?

Knee Injuries During Football SeasonChanging Direction Rapidly

Quickly stopping, starting and changing directions (pivoting) is required to avoid tackles. Injuries can also occur when jumping and landing. These rapid and abrupt motions can put a tremendous amount of force and strain on the ligaments in the knee. 

Being Tackled

Knee injuries can also occur when a player is being tackled. Low tackles that are performed at waist level or lower are especially problematic. Many players are told to keep their tackles at a medium to low height because it helps avoid helmet-to-helmet contact and it’s simply more effective. 

The downside to this tackling technique is the increased risk of knee injuries. If a player’s leg is planted on the ground and a great amount of force is applied to the knee, a ligament may partially or completely tear.

Most Common Types of Knee Injuries

With these injuries, sprains are categorized into three levels:

  • Grade 1 Sprain: The ligament is slightly stretched but it is able to keep the knee stable.
  • Grade 2 Sprain: The ligament has been stretched to the point it has lost tension/become loose. 
  • Grade 3 Sprain: The ligament has completely torn and the knee is no longer stable.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries

The anterior cruciate ligament is the most common type of sports-related knee ligament injury. This ligament controls the back and forth motion of the knee and prevents the tibia (shin bone) from sliding out in front of the femur (thigh bone). When this injury occurs, there may be a popping noise. Typical symptoms include swelling, loss of range-of-motion, and “giving out” when walking.

Collateral Ligament (MCL & LCL) Injuries

Collateral ligaments are found on both sides of the knee. Since the knee is only meant to bend forward and backward, the MCL and LCL braces your knee for any unusual sideways movement. Injuries to the MCL most often occur when force is applied to the outside of the knee. LCL sprains occur when force is applied to the inside of the knee.

Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injuries

Injuries to the PCL are less common and far less symptomatic than ACL injuries. The PCL is located in the back of the knee and it is one of the four ligaments that connects the femur to the tibia. The posterior cruciate ligament prevents the tibia (shin bone) from moving backwards too far.

Treatment for Knee Injuries in the Seattle Area

The treatment of a knee ligament injury will depend on the severity of the sprain. For less severe cases, only rest and physical therapy may be required, but for more serious injuries, surgery may be necessary. 

Dr. Fuchs, orthopedic specialist, has the experience and expertise to aid those with any level of knee injury through the entire recovery process. To schedule an appointment, please call (425) 823-4000 or request one online.