Dear Doctor: My son injured his knee in his football game last night. What are common knee injuries in football players?
Dear Reader: I am sorry to hear about your son’s injury. There are several injuries that are possible in sports, especially football. Many of these can occur without contact as the foot is planted and the knee twists.
An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is a common traumatic injury to the knee. The ACL is a major ligament in the knee that provides stability to the knee especially with pivoting sports. A torn ACL requires surgical reconstruction with tissue from another source. Often this occurs without contact. The athlete can feel or even hear a “pop.” The knee immediately swells with fluid, called an effusion. The athlete can often walk, although with pain. Return to sports is about 6 months.
A medial collateral ligament (MCL) tear is another common ligament injury in football players. An MCL tear commonly occurs as the athlete’s foot is planted and an opposing player hits the outside of the knee. The player often feels a tearing sensation. The knee will be sore and swell slightly on the inside of the knee. The athlete will have some pain with walking and some sense of instability. The MCL provides stability to the knee especially in side-to-side motions. A torn MCL can frequently be treated without surgery using a hinged knee brace. Return to sports is 3 to 6 weeks.
A torn meniscus is another common knee injury. It often occurs along with a ligament injury but can occur as an isolated event. The knee has a medial and lateral meniscus. The meniscus is a type of cartilage in the knee that acts as a shock absorber. The meniscus can tear with a twisting, hyper flexion, or hyperextension injury. The knee will swell slightly several hours after the injury. Often the athlete feels a slight pop at the time of injury. The tear will cause the knee to be sore to walk on, often requiring crutches. There may be limitations in knee flexion. A torn meniscus requires surgical treatment with either repair or partial removal of the torn fragment. Return to sports is 4 weeks for meniscus trimming and 10 weeks for meniscus repair.
Dr. Timothy M. Noonan is an Orthopaedic Surgeon for the UT Health Science Center at Houston and provides patient care at UT Physicians at Cinco Ranch located at 23923 Cinco Ranch Blvd., Katy, TX 77494.