9 Common Knee Injuries from Falling

Apr 25, 2022

9 Common Knee Injuries from FallingIf you’re experiencing knee pain after a fall, this could indicate a range of common knee injuries ranging from mild bruising to something needing medical intervention like a fracture or ligament tear. Knee injuries from falling are common, and you may benefit from physical therapy after a fall. If you think your knee has been injured from falling, it’s important to stay attuned to where your pain is and if it worsens or spreads with any motion or activity. At AICA Atlanta, we’re experienced with every kind of slip and fall injuries, and we are here to help you assess your pain and show you how we can help you recover.

We’ll walk you through the different types of common knee injuries from falling and provide a guide to you so you know which can be managed at home and which injuries from falling may require medical attention.

Abrasion

Abrasions are also known as scrapes and occur when the skin on the knee meets a rough surface. Abrasions are usually minor and only affect the outermost layer of skin, and can be treated at home. More serious, deeper abrasions need to be addressed by a medical professional.

Laceration

You might know a laceration by its common name: a cut, or a puncture to the skin. This kind of injury from falling usually comes about when you’ve fallen into or onto something sharp. Lacerations can really run the range of severity from not bleeding at all to needing immediate medical attention. If you’ve fallen and gotten a laceration from something rusty, you need to seek medical attention as you may require a tetanus shot.

Contusion

A technical term for a bruise, a contusion is a common knee injury after a fall, particularly if you’ve fallen on a hard surface. You might also find yourself with a contusion if you’ve banged your knee on furniture or items around your home. Contusions present as black, blue, purple, or discolored skin. This is a result of blood vessels and capillaries bursting below the skin as a result of the impact of the knee against the hard surface. Bruises can be treated at home with over-the-counter painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs, ice, and rest.

Sprain

You often hear about ankle sprains, and those are very common with falls; however, knee sprains are also a common ailment after falls. Your knee is made up of ligaments that connect different muscles, tissues, and bones to one another. These ligaments, like the ligaments that connect your ankle muscles, tendons, and bones, can sprain when they are overextended. This overextension can occur after minor or major falls, as well as from being hit (like a tackle in football). Many sprains can be healed at home through resting, icing, or heating. However, some sprains will need to be treated by a doctor. You should see your doctor if you experience prolonged swelling, severe pain, or difficulty moving your knee.

Meniscus Tear

Your meniscus is a piece of cartilage that is rubbery and slippery and provides cushioning to your knee. The meniscus is between the femur and tibia. Meniscus tears are common leg injuries in car accidents, athletes, and older people. Meniscus tears typically result from falling in sports or when making sharp movements, like in skiing or turning sharply in basketball or football. Intense falls can also lead to meniscus tears. Some meniscus tears won’t need to be treated with surgery, but many of them will only be resolved through surgical means. Without any medical attention, pain and swelling can continue, leading to more complications.

Torn Tendon

Your knee contains two main tendons, the quadricep tendon and the patellar tendon. These tendons are responsible for connecting all of the muscles in the front of your leg together at the knee, from your thigh to your shin. The quadricep tendon connects the thigh muscle to the kneecap, and the patellar tendon connects the bottom of the kneecap to the shinbone.

You’re susceptible to tendon injuries if you’ve fallen down the stairs and landed on the front of your leg or knee or if you’ve missed a step and landed awkwardly. You’re more likely to tear your patellar tendon than your quadricep; however, both can be painful.

Torn Ligament

There are four main ligaments that link the tibia and the femur together and allow the knee its flexibility to move around from front to back and side to side. These ligaments are the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL), and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL). The most common torn ligament injuries are MCL and ACL injuries, which often occur in athletes. Injuries to ligaments typically follow a fall from a high height or from a sports-related contact injury like sliding in baseball or tackling in football. Both of these could mean blows to the knee that could result in one or more ligament tears. Without medical attention, a torn ligament can lead to more injuries and chronic pain. If you’ve torn a ligament in your knee, you’ll likely need surgery to repair it.

Knee Dislocation

A rare occurrence after a fall, a knee dislocation is very painful and it is an extremely serious injury. This injury is different from a dislocated kneecap. If you suspect you have a dislocated knee, you should seek emergency medical attention as a dislocated knee can cause additional problems like blood vessel damage or nerve damage. A knee dislocation usually happens after a high-impact collision, like a car accident, sports collision, or a fall from a very high height.

Fracture

It’s possible to fracture your kneecap or patella. Because of where the patella sits in your knee, it’s susceptible to breaking if you take a hard fall and land directly on it. A fracture is a serious injury requiring medical intervention. You may not be able to walk with a fractured kneecap. Healing can mean anything from a cast or splint to surgery.

When Should I See a Doctor After a Fall?

As you can see, knee injuries from falls can have varying consequences and require varying degrees of treatment. It’s important to monitor your symptoms closely to determine whether or not you should seek treatment following a knee injury after a fall. Abrasions and lacerations can be treated at home; however, if any of these injuries begin to bleed significantly, then you should seek a doctor. You should also seek a doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Hearing a popping sound during or after a fall
  • Trying to walk but having your knee buckle; not being able to bear weight on your knee is an indication of a more serious injury
  • Swelling of the knee
  • Injured knee that is warm to the touch; this is an indication of infection or inflammation
  • Persistent bleeding of a cut or scrape
  • The surrounding skin around a cut is getting red, swollen, or showing pus

What Can I Expect After a Knee Injury

You may have to visit a doctor to have them diagnose your knee injury, especially if you have ongoing knee pain due to a fall. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and may request additional procedures like an X-Ray or CT scan to help them diagnose your injury. Depending on your injury, you may be able to treat your injury at home, or you may be referred to physical therapy, ongoing medical treatment, or surgery. Healing for cuts and scrapes may be a few weeks; however, healing from torn ligaments, tendons, or fractures may take up to 6 months to a year. Most knee injuries can be helped by following the RICE method:

  • Rest for at least a day or two, and take care to stay off the injured knee as much as possible.
  • Ice your knee on and off for 15 to 20 minutes at a time. You can alternatively do a cold compress. Do this for the first day after an injury.
  • Compress the injured knee by wrapping it tightly in a bandage to minimize swelling.
  • Elevate your injured knee on pillows whenever you’re sitting down.

Having adequate rest helps activate your body’s natural healing responses, but remember that too much rest may hinder your overall recovery. Make sure check with your doctor when to start re-engaging in physical activities.

Physical Therapy for Knee Injuries

All kinds of knee injuries are common after falls. Knee injuries after falls can range from minor abrasions or lacerations to fractures and torn ligaments. Most knee injuries can be healed at home using the RICE method and over-the-counter care like painkillers or cold compresses. Be aware of how your pain and symptoms are progressing, as they may mean you should seek a medical professional for a diagnosis and treatment of a more serious injury or issue. Some falls may require physical therapy, a cast, ongoing treatment, or even surgery. Only a doctor can diagnose your knee injury following a fall. They may sometimes use diagnostic tools such as X-Rays or CT scans to help pinpoint the cause of your pain and symptoms. If you are unable to stand or walk, have severe pain, and are experiencing swelling around your knee, you should seek medical attention immediately.

 

 

 

 

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