Just what actually is going on when an X-ray for an injured knee shows a tumor?

First off, a tumor is a mass of body tissue. It can be malignant or benign.

Keep in mind that a cancerous tumor requires some kind of DNA mutation or haywire mechanism on the subcellular level that then leads to uncontrollable cell growth.

It’s a far leap to believe that shredding your knee in a skiing accident or tearing it during sport could disrupt the DNA and cause a mutation.

At any rate, I asked the question of if a knee injury could cause a tumor to John-Paul H. Rue, MD, orthopedic sports medicine surgeon with Orthopedics and Joint Replacement at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, MD.

Dr. Rue explains, “While there are some soft tissue tumors [benign] that can result from previous trauma, this is not the norm.

“Severe injuries such as blast injuries in wartime can cause heterotopic bone (extra bone formation in non-bone tissues), which is a tumor-like condition which can cause significant problems, but is not an actual tumor.

“In most cases, it is just that the injury or trauma results in the individual getting an X-ray or MRI of the injured body part, the knee for example, which then identifies the tumor which was previously unknown and asymptomatic or not causing any symptoms.”

Yes, this happens. For instance, a child suffers an injured knee in a soccer game, car accident or skateboard mishap.

The X-ray incidentally shows a suspicious mass on the bone in the knee, which by chance may be very near to a fracture. Or, an MRI may pick something up. The mass turns out to be cancer that had not progressed enough to cause symptoms.

Bone cancers, especially in adults, are VERY rare, and knee injuries do not cause them. Nor does trauma cause out of control growth of ligament or tendon tissue.

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.  

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Top image: Shutterstock/ThamKC