Knee injuries are one of the most common musculoskeletal injuries suffered by athletes across all age groups. As more and more young athletes have become enrolled in high-performance sports programs over the last decade the incidence of serious knee injury has risen significantly. Fortunately, thanks to advancements in both surgical and therapeutic procedures, the recovery window has been shortened while the likelihood of a successful recovery from major knee injury has risen as well.
The knee is a very complex joint with many moving parts, making it very susceptible to injury. The knee is stabilized by two ligaments on each side of the knee, otherwise known as the collateral ligaments (MCL and LCL) as well as two ligaments inside the knee (PCL and ACL). When exposed to the extreme forces inherent in high-intensity sporting activities these ligaments can occasionally fail, resulting in a partial or full tear. Athletes who participate in contact or semi-contact sports involving sudden stopping/starting and changes of direction are especially at risk for knee injury.
You should always take your Doctor’s recommendations into serious consideration when trying to decide whether or not you should seek surgery for a knee injury, but in most cases unless the patient is elderly or non-active surgery is generally recommended. Because of advances in surgical techniques a knee ligament injury is far from the devastating, career-ending injury that they used to be.
A patient who decides to have a complete ligament rupture treated non-operatively runs a risk of around 50% that they will never return to their pre-injury level of sports participation. They also run a much higher risk of further injury and chronic pain due to the inherent instability in the knee caused by the previous injury not being surgically repaired.
Following injury and surgery a patient can expect to experience notable pain and swelling around their injured knee. This is a normal inflammatory reaction which is triggered by tissue trauma and can be managed in several ways.
Standing for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation this is probably the most commonly known method of treatment for any sports-related injury. Following the R.I.C.E protocol can help an athlete get back onto the path to recovery much quicker than they otherwise would be.
Rest is a given. Trying to make use of an injured knee or any other damaged body part will only further agitate the existing injury and puts the athlete at risk for further injury in surrounding tissue structures. Icing helps to reduce the blood flow from vessels surrounding the injury, thereby decreasing the uncomfortable swelling and inflammation. Use of doctor approved compression garments can help to increase lymphatic drainage following surgery and accelerate the overall recovery timeline. By keeping the knee above the heart (use a rolled towel or pillow under your ankle – never behind or under your knee) the athlete can further reduce inflammation.
It’s near a guarantee that a doctor will tell you to use a pair of walking crutches to keep weight off of your damaged knee following surgery. This is pretty straight forward, use the crutches. You will want to; your knee is going to be very sore after surgery.
Providing the athlete with a brace of some kind is another ubiquitous practice following a knee operation. By limiting the range of movement of the knee temporarily, the brace can encourage healing and be adjusted progressively as the athlete recovers and begins to regain their former range of motion. These braces also help to reduce strain on the new surgical grafts within the knee and for this reason may even be advisable for use in sporting activities after the athlete has fully recovered.
Another vital step on the road to recovery from any knee injury is regular application of physical therapy practices and techniques by a licensed therapist. Without application of this therapy it is extremely unlikely that any athlete will ever come close to fully recovering their former range of motion in the damaged knee, much less their full athletic capability.
The therapist will generally focus on a range of exercises designed to combat atrophy in the muscles around the knee while also regaining any range of motion lost due to the injury. The ultimate goal of this therapy is to develop the joint and the surrounding muscles in a way which stabilizes the knee so that the injury does not reoccur in the future.
True Sports Physical Therapy has a staff of therapists who have spent their careers training to treat sports-related injuries just like these. Boasting a wealth of experience in treating athletes throughout the Baltimore and greater Maryland area, you won’t find another physical therapy practice as dedicated at helping athletes return to the sports they love. By applying cutting-edge techniques on an individualized basis, True Sports Physical Therapy has cemented itself as a leading physical therapy provider for athletes throughout the Baltimore area.
Looking for a physical therapist in Baltimore that understands the mindset and needs of the elite athlete? Contact us today at (410) 946-1672