The knee is critically important to most kinds of movement. Whether you’re walking, sitting, or standing up, your knees are key to helping you maneuver freely and fluidly.
If you suffer a knee injury, you might be unable to work or perform necessary activities like driving or shopping. These disabilities can affect you financially. They might also diminish your enjoyment and quality of life.
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What Is the Anatomy of Your Knees?
Your knees bring together three leg bones:
- Femur: The longest bone in your body, running from the pelvis to the knee
- Tibia: Load-bearing bone in the lower leg that carries weight from the femur to the ankle
- Fibula: Non-load-bearing bone that stabilizes the leg by connecting the knee and ankle
A fourth bone, the patella, sits over the knee. More commonly known as the kneecap, it does not carry any load. It only protects the joint and the structures inside.
Five ligaments hold these bones together:
- Patellar: Holds the patella to the tibia
- Anterior Cruciate: Connects the front of the tibia to the back of the femur
- Posterior Cruciate: Connects the back of the tibia to the front of the femur
- Medial Collateral: Connects the inside of the femur to the inside of the tibia
- Lateral Collateral: Connects the outside of the femur to the fibula
These ligaments assist and guide the movement of the leg at the knee. For example, the ligaments prevent your knees from bending backward when you walk or run.
Cartilage lines your knee and provides a bearing surface where the bones meet. It allows your knee to move smoothly and prevents excessive wear of the bones. The articular cartilage lines the lower end of the femur. The meniscus sits on top of the tibia.
What Can Cause a Knee Injury?
Trauma can damage these knee structures. Some types of trauma that can produce knee injuries include:
Blunt injuries happen when your knee gets hit without suffering an open wound. Blunt force can fracture bones and tear soft tissue. Blunt injuries can occur in almost any kind of accident. A car could strike your knee in a pedestrian accident. Alternatively, your knee could strike the ground during a tripping or slipping accident.
Penetrating trauma happens when something pierces your knee. For example, you could fall onto a protruding piece of rebar in a construction accident. The foreign object can damage the soft tissues. Pathogens on the object have the potential to cause an infection.
Hyperextension happens when your knee stretches, bends, or twists unnaturally. Sports fans have seen these injuries when an athlete’s knee buckles as they stop or turn on the field or court.
These injuries can also happen when the knee bends the wrong way or too far. You could suffer a hyperextension injury in a side-impact car accident, for instance, when the force of impact causes your knee to bend sideways.
Using your knee leads to the formation of small cracks and tears. These injuries heal when you rest. If you repeatedly stress your knee without resting, the cracks and tears grow.
These injuries often happen to people who perform repetitive motions at work. Walking, standing, and lifting for hours at a time can cause repetitive use knee injuries. When these injuries happen at work, the injured person can seek workers’ compensation benefits.
What Types of Knee Injuries Can a Person Sustain?
Knee injuries can take many forms depending on the damaged structures. Some common knee injuries include:
A sprained knee happens when the ligaments get hyperextended and suffer damage as they stretch. They may even tear partially or completely. When you read about a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the victim has suffered a severe knee sprain.
Sprains destabilize the joint because ligaments hold the bones together. Equally importantly, knee ligaments guide knee motion. When the ligaments suffer damage, you have nothing to constrain your knee movement. As a result, you can damage other tissues in the knee as it bends and twists in the wrong direction.
Other symptoms of knee sprain include:
- Limited range of motion
- Popping at the moment you injure it
Mild sprains can result from stretched or partially torn ligaments. These injuries usually heal in four to six weeks. Severe sprains, namely those involving a full-thickness tear, may require knee surgery and several months of rest and rehabilitation.
All four types of knee trauma can tear the cartilage inside the knee. When this happens, you lose the lining that allows your knee to bend and straighten smoothly.
As a result, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Clicking or hitching as you bend or straighten the knee
Cartilage grows very slowly. When you tear the cartilage in your knee, you will likely need several months of rest to reduce the inflammation. Your doctor may also prescribe physical therapy to build up the muscles and tendons to better support the knee. Occasionally, doctors will operate on your knee to remove any loose or floating pieces of cartilage.
An impact on your knee can fracture your patella. For a simple fracture, doctors may immobilize the knee with a cast or brace until the patella heals. The fractured bone will probably take six to eight weeks to heal.
When trauma shatters the patella into three or more pieces, doctors can rebuild the patella using bone fragments, bone grafts, plates, or screws. The shattered patella might take a year or longer to heal. Alternatively, they can simply remove the bone fragments since you can survive without a patella.
Can I Get Compensated For a Knee Injury?
You can pursue workers’ compensation benefits if your knee injury happened in the course and scope of your employment. Workers’ comp benefits cover 100% of your reasonable and necessary medical treatment and therapy. They also replace a portion of your income losses.
You may have a claim for a knee injury that resulted from someone else’s negligent or wrongful actions. To prove negligence, you must show that the other person failed to exercise reasonable care.
If you prove negligence, you may then seek compensation for non-economic and economic losses. Economic damages include medical bills, associated out-of-pocket expenses, and lost wages. Non-economic damages cover the decrease in your quality of life due to your injuries, such as pain, suffering, and disability.
A knee injury can require expensive surgery. Even after surgery, you may suffer long-term disabilities that affect your ability to work. Contact Mission Personal Injury Lawyers at (619) 777-5555 for a free consultation to discuss your knee injuries and the claims you might have against the at-fault party.