About Knee Injuries

Knee injuries and knee pain can happen in athletes and non-athletes, children, teens and adults. Causes of knee pain include sports, overuse and age-related changes. Knee injuries include ligament problems such as a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), bursitis and arthritis.

Because knee pain has so many different causes, it’s important to get it checked out. An experienced sports medicine specialist can find the source of the pain and treat it.


About the Knee

The knee is the largest, most complex joint in the body. This makes it vulnerable to injury and damage from sports and normal wear and tear.

The knee joint is where the lower end of the thigh bone meets the upper end of the shin bone. The kneecap (patella) sits on top of the lower thigh bone. Between the two leg bones is a section of cartilage (firm, rubbery tissue) called the meniscus. Strong bands of tissue called ligaments hold the bones and cartilage stable and help the knee absorb the stress of activity.


Sports-Related Knee Injuries

Common sports-related knee injuries include:


Ligament injuries
Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), medial collateral ligament (MCL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) are familiar to many athletes. ACL problems are common in basketball and football players and skiers. Causes of ACL injuries include a direct blow to the knee or a twisting injury where there is no contact. MCL injuries can happen in football or other sports if there is a direct hit to the knee. A hit or strong force to the inside of the knee can damage the LCL.


Posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) injuries are less common than injuries to the other three knee ligaments, but can also happen as a result of a sports injury or accident such as an auto accident.


Cartilage injuries
A torn meniscus (meniscal tear) is a common injury. Many athletic activities can tear the meniscus. It is vulnerable to sudden injury, such as from pivoting in basketball or soccer. Meniscal tears can also develop over time. For example, if you spend a lot of time hiking on uneven ground, twisting forces can tear the meniscus.


Knee Injuries from Repetitive Motion

Moving the knee incorrectly or having a condition that puts extra stress on the knee can cause injury. Repetitive motion knee injuries happen over time, so symptoms can come on slowly.


Closeup of man with sports wrap on knee as he runs on black background

Closeup of man with sports wrap on knee as he runs on black background


The most common knee injuries from repetitive motion include:


Bursitis happens when a small sac of fluid, called a bursa, gets inflamed. (A bursa normally cushions bones and tendons.) The inflammation causes pain, redness, swelling and warmth. It might also be difficult to straighten your knee completely.


You can get bursitis below the kneecap if your knees absorb a lot of impact, such as in wrestling, basketball or football. It can also develop if you spend a lot of time kneeling (for example, working as a plumber, roofer or carpet layer).


Bursitis can also happen on the inside of the knee, a few inches below the joint. This type of bursitis has several causes, including too much hill running. A sports medicine specialist can help you pinpoint the cause.


Patellar tendinitis
Sometimes called “jumper’s knee.” This condition is often seen in adults who play sports such as basketball or volleyball, but it can happen in other sports that involve jumping. It happens when the patellar (kneecap) tendon gets inflamed. Signs include pain at the bottom of the kneecap and aching and stiffness after activity. The pain might affect your ability to play. An inflamed patellar tendon can become weak enough to tear, so see a doctor if you think you might have jumper’s knee.


Patellofemoral syndrome
This is sometimes called “runner’s knee,” but it can happen in many sports besides running. It causes dull, aching pain around the kneecap (patella), the bony front part of the knee. The pain can happen when you kneel, squat, go up and down stairs or sit with the knee bent. Problems with knee alignment, weak or tight thigh muscles and flat feet can all contribute to this injury.


Osgood-Schlatter disease
Osgood-Schlatter disease is knee pain in young teens who are not finished with their growth spurt. Doing a lot of running and jumping means the patellar (kneecap) tendon is constantly pulling on the part of the shin bone that is still growing. This causes pain, tenderness and swelling.


Osgood-Schlatter disease is most common in teens who play certain sports, including distance running, gymnastics, basketball and soccer. A sports medicine specialist can evaluate Osgood-Schlatter disease and recommend treatments that help most teens stay active. This problem usually disappears by the mid-teens.


Arthritis of the Knee Arthritis is common in the knee. It can happen when knee cartilage wears away over time, or it can develop after an injury. Arthritis can cause knee pain and swelling. It might be hard to bend the knee or walk normally. Your arthritis can be worse in the morning or after rest. Some arthritis also gets worse with activity or at night when you are trying to sleep.



There are several forms of arthritis. Osteoarthritis develops from wear and tear on the joint, rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation in joints and other body parts and crystalline arthritis happens when crystals form inside joints (gout is a type of crystalline arthritis). A sports medicine specialist can determine which type you have.


There are many different treatments for arthritis in the knee. Many people benefit from a combination of treatments, such as lifestyle changes, exercises or physical therapy, and medicine. A sports medicine specialist can recommend the right treatment for you, including steroid injections or surgery if necessary.


Get Care for Knee Injuries

Do you have a knee problem? Not sure if something is wrong? Call Hanover Sports Medicine at 804-559-7463 or, Request an Appointment Online. We offer care after regular business hours,Ortho After Hours