Knee Injuries Commonly Suffered in Motor Vehicle Accidents

Torn Ligaments | Torn Meniscus | Fractured Kneecap

Knee Injuries Commonly Suffered in Motor Vehicle AccidentsWhen you’re traveling in a motor vehicle, whether as driver or passenger, and you collide with another car or truck, it’s not unusual for your legs to catch much of the impact. Even at relatively low speeds, that impact can twist or hyperextend your need, causing significant injury to connective tissue such as ligaments, tendons, and muscles. In fact, knee injuries are one of the more common types of trauma associated with motor vehicle accidents.

Torn Ligaments

Ligaments are short bands of tough, fibrous tissue that either hold a joint together or connect bones or cartilage. There are four different ligaments associated with the knee—the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), and the lateral collateral ligament (LCL).

  • PCL injury—PCL ligament injury is the one most commonly associated with a motor vehicle accident, earning it the nickname “dashboard knee.” It’s commonly caused when a driver or front seat passenger hits their knee on the dashboard after impact with another car. The PCL is located at the back of the knee and connects the shinbone (tibia) to the thighbone (femur).
  • ACL tear, sprain or strain—The ACL is in the middle of your knee and prevents your shinbone from sliding out in front of your thighbone. It can often be torn or bruised by a sudden stop or deceleration, or as a result of violent twisting.
  • MCL injury—The MCL connects the shinbone to the thighbone. Impact with any solid object inside or outside a car can cause trauma to the MCL.

Torn Meniscus

Your meniscus is a disc-shaped section of cartilage that serves as a cushion in your knee joint. Each knee has both a medial and a lateral meniscus. The impact of a car accident can cause the meniscus to tear, either completely or with a small section hanging off the rest of the meniscus.

Broken Kneecap

The impact associated with a motor vehicle accident can result in a fracture of the kneecap, but the impact must typically be by a direct blow. The telltale signs of fracture include swelling, bruising, and an inability to put weight on the knee or walk or straighten the leg.

Treatment Options for a Torn Meniscus

Healing from One of the Most Common Knee Injuries

Treatment Options for a Torn MeniscusHave you been experiencing pain or swelling in your knee, or do you get a popping sensation when you turn a certain way? Does your leg lock up or seem stiff? Are youhaving difficulty bending or straightening out at your knee? There’s a good chance you’ve torn your meniscus.

What Is Meniscus?

Meniscus is cartilage that provides cushioning on the sides of your knee. There’s meniscus on the outside of the knee (the lateral meniscus) and the inside (the medial meniscus). The most common cause of a torn meniscus is twisting or turningthe upper leg when your foot is planted and your knees are bent, such as when you make a sudden change of direction. Meniscus tears are more common as you get older and cartilage starts to weaken.

While the meniscus can be completely severed, it’s more common for a little flap of cartilage to separate from the rest of the meniscus. An X-ray generally won’t show torn meniscus, but an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) typically will.

How Do You Treat Torn Meniscus?

Treatment typically depends on the location and extent of the tear. You may opt for different types of treatment based on your age and level of physical fitness and whether you’ve had a prior injury.

If you suffer a small tear on the outer layer of the meniscus, you may be able to heal by simply resting your knee as much as possible. Blood flow is generally much better on the outer portion of the meniscus, increasing the chances that the meniscus will heal on its own. The RICE approach (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) may be sufficient.

Most meniscus tears, however, are in the body of the meniscus, where there’s an insufficient flow of nutrients to promote self-healing. In those situations, you’ll likely need surgery to either repair or remove some part of the meniscus. Unless you needsignificant meniscus repair, the surgery is customarily done arthroscopically (a minimally invasive procedure) on an outpatient basis. If you do require repair, your doctor will likely prescribe a brace afterward to help stabilize your knee.