The knees are the largest joints in your body, but are also largely unstable and therefore susceptible to injury. The knee is incredibly complex and enormously important due to its weight-bearing function. The complexity of the knee’s structure lends itself to the occurrence of several injuries at one time. This can make diagnosis especially difficult and may require multiple methods of treatment.
Though the knee may seem to act like a hinge, it actually moves in more than one way, enabling you to bend, extend and rotate your leg. Linking the thigh and lower leg, (the femur and the tibia), the knee combines leg mobility and strength, particularly the strength to withstand the impact caused by walking, running and jumping.
The bone within the knee joint is the patella, where cartilage joins with ligaments (cruciate ligaments) which criss-cross between the tibia and femur. These ligaments form an X-shaped support structure. It guards against the bones being moved out of place. However, damage caused in a car crash can create significant injuries in this area. In some cases, surgery is needed to realign the patella.
An unhappy triad is a serious knee injury that occurs when a lateral force hits the knee while the foot is fixed on the ground. Though more common in sports than car accidents, injuries of this kind involve tearing of the medial collateral ligament (MCL), the anterior cruciate ligament ligaments (ACL) and medial cartilage. Nevertheless, damage to just one part of the knee can lead to a complex or nagging injury.
The ACL are the main ligaments in the knee. They connect the back of the thigh to the front of the shin and prevent the shin from moving excessively. Damage to these ligaments makes the knee unstable. This can harm your ability to walk, as well as cause considerable pain. Rehabilitation usually involves specific exercises and slow, gradual progression. Knee surgery may also be required.
The MCL is wide and flat. It acts to resist forces that push the knee toward the body. The medial meniscus is somewhat like a semicircular shock absorber for the knee. It acts to reduce friction between the two bones and enables knee movements to be smooth. Unfortunately, it is also slow to heal. The outer portion heals quicker than the larger inner portion, due the inner portion’s limited blood supply. Large tears to the outer portion often require surgery. Making matter worse, if the meniscus must be removed, there is an increased risk of arthritis.
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