Your knees have some of the most complicated structures in your musculoskeletal system. Four bones, five ligaments, and two of your largest muscle groups meet at this essential leg joint.
When something goes wrong with your knee, you might have difficulty working or even performing your daily activities like shopping or driving. This might result in significant financial hardship because you need to pay for treatment or physical therapy but cannot work.
Read on for a summary of the causes and effects of a knee injury. You will also learn about the compensation you can seek for a knee injury that results from someone else’s negligence.
What Is the Anatomy of Your Knee?
Your knees allow you to walk, run, jump, and sit. Without a joint in your leg, you would walk stiff-legged and lack the leverage to jump.
The knee provides a meeting point for several bones, major muscles, and ligaments, including:
Four bones come together at your knee. Your femur runs through your thigh and is the longest, thickest bone in your body.
Your tibia and fibula run through your calf. Your tibia bears your weight in your lower leg. The fibula stabilizes your leg by connecting the top of your tibia to your ankle.
The last bone, your patella, does not play a structural role in your leg. Instead, it sits over your knee to protect the joint.
You have a few major muscle groups that cross your knee. In your thigh, your hamstrings run along the back of your thigh and attach to your tibia below your knee. Your gastrocnemius runs along your calf and attaches to the femur above your knee.
You have five ligaments in each of your knees.
Your knee ligaments include the following:
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL): — attaches the front inside femur to the rear outside tibia
- Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) — attaches the front outside femur to the rear inside tibia
- Medial collateral ligament (MCL) — attaches the inside femur to the inside tibia
- Lateral collateral ligament (LCL) — attaches the outside femur to the fibula
- Patellar ligament, or patellar tendon — attaches the patella to the tibia
These ligaments hold the bones together. They have the strength to prevent your leg bones from separating but the flexibility to allow your knees to bend and extend.
Cartilage lines most of your joints and cushions them from shocks while you’re walking, running, or jumping. Cartilage also provides a slick, tough surface that prevents your bones from wearing out.
Articular cartilage lines the lower end of your femur. The meniscus lines the upper surface of your tibia. Together, they allow your knee to bend and extend smoothly.
How Do Knee Injuries Happen?
Knee injuries almost always result from overuse or trauma.
Overuse Knee Injuries
Overuse happens when you endure repetitive stresses on your knees. These stresses can damage your knee structures with tiny cracks and tears.
With rest, the body heals this damage. But when you repeat the same motions over and over, the damage accumulates faster than the body can heal. Over time, you can develop torn cartilage, inflamed ligaments, or even stress fractures in your bones.
This problem happens primarily in people who have jobs that subject them to the repetitive stresses of walking, lifting, or carrying. Even when injuries like these happen over time instead of in a single accident, an employee may be able to seek workers’ compensation benefits.
Traumatic Knee Injuries
Traumatic knee injuries usually happen in a single incident or accident. Blunt knee trauma happens when you hit your knee or fall onto your knee without causing an open wound. Blunt knee trauma might occur when you get hit in a bicycle accident or pedestrian accident.
Hyperextension trauma happens when your knee gets stretched beyond its normal range. This injury can happen when you get whipped around in a car accident. It can also happen in a trip and fall or slip and fall accident when your knee bends the wrong way.
Penetrating knee trauma occurs when your knee gets pierced. This type of injury can damage the structures of your knee, cause bleeding, and expose you to infection.
What Are Some Examples of Knee Injuries?
Some examples of knee injuries include:
Sports fans know that a torn knee ligament can end an athlete’s season. This injury can also happen in an accident that hyperextends your knee, resulting in a sprain.
Symptoms of a sprained knee ligament include:
- Knee pain
- Joint inflammation
- Unstable knee joint
- Limited range of knee motion
You could have also heard or felt a pop in your knee when you injured it.
Minor knee strains will heal in four to six weeks with rest. Full-thickness tears in the ligaments might require surgery.
The muscles and tendons that cross the knee can also get stretched or torn when you hyperextend your knee, causing a strain.
Symptoms of a strained knee include:
- Swollen and stiff muscles
- Leg pain near or crossing your knee
- Muscle spasms and weakness in the leg
Strains usually heal within four to six weeks with home care.
A sudden strain on your knee can tear the cartilage inside.
Symptoms of torn knee cartilage include:
- Knee pain
- Swollen knee
- Limited range of motion
- Clicking or hitching in the knee
Doctors used to perform arthroscopic knee surgery frequently for torn knee cartilage. Many doctors now prefer to allow the cartilage to heal on its own unless your knee has pieces of loose or floating cartilage inside that inhibit motion.
How Can You Get Compensation for a Knee Injury?
You can seek compensation for knee injuries that result from someone else’s negligence. If you prove negligence, you can seek compensation for economic losses like medical expenses and lost income, as well as non-economic losses like pain and suffering.
A knee injury can disable you from working or performing necessary activities like walking and driving. You might take months to recover and experience chronic pain in your knee for the rest of your life.