Did you know that being able to stand on the knee or even return to the game doesn’t exclude a serious knee injury?
So how can you tell if your knee injury is bad?
The knee is the most unstable joint in the body. Think of all it must do, especially in sport.
Have you ever said, or known anyone to say, “Oh, my knee can’t be injured that bad; it’s not even swollen,” or, “My knee will be fine; I was able to jump right back into the game”?
But is there a way for a layperson to tell if their knee injury is truly bad or just an annoyance?
“Inability to bear weight is a bad sign,” begins John-Paul H. Rue, MD, orthopedic sports medicine surgeon with Orthopedics and Joint Replacement at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.
History of Knee Activity
Dr. Rue continues, “If someone tells me they made a cutting or pivoting move, felt a pop in their knee, and couldn’t stand on it after that…that generally means they have had a significant injury, likely a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament.”
That’s a no-brainer: not being able to bear weight or stand on the knee, especially if this experience persists.
What can’t rule out a bad injury?
“But just because someone is able to stand on their leg, or even return to the game doesn’t by itself exclude a significant injury,” says Dr. Rue.
“In general, if you have significant swelling in the knee, or pain with weight-bearing, there is a high chance that you have sustained a significant knee injury.”
You cannot work through or tough out a bad knee injury. And if the anterior cruciate ligament isn’t involved, the situation may involve another ligament or the cartilage (meniscus).
What if your doctor doesn’t think much is wrong and even says you don’t need an MRI? Yet intuitively, you just “know” something is wrong?
Seek a second opinion. This is what my mother did and it turned out she had a meniscus tear and required surgery.
An ACL tear, by the way, may take up to 10 months to fully heal. But you can’t make a serious knee injury go away by ignoring it.
Dr. Rue specializes in prevention and treatment of sports and exercise injuries. His primary focuses are knee, shoulder and elbow injuries including ACL and cartilage injuries, rotator cuff injuries and overuse tendonitis.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.