A common sporting injury, a cruciate ligament strain is likely to mean several weeks down time for an athlete.
Knee injuries can occur to various parts of the knee - in addition to a cruciate ligament strain, you can also suffer injuries to the bones, the patellar tendon, and the menisci. If you suffer a knee injury, it is quite possible that more than one of these structures may be damaged.
A cruciate ligament strain can occur to either the anterior (front) or the posterior (back), with anterior cruciate ligament strains more common than posterior.
These structures are vital in providing stability in the knee, and are often injured during sports when the foot is planted. Typical scenarios include those where:
- The leg is locked and the body pushed forward
- The bent knee is forced in the opposite direction to its natural motion
- The foot is locked and there is a twist - for example, while skiing, or when the studs get caught in the turf
Symptoms usually include a click, followed by pain. The joint will swell due to blood from the damaged structures filling the knee joint.
The immediate thing to do is follow the RICE protocol - Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation - then get it checked out by a doctor or sports injury specialist.
To diagnose this injury, the doctor will be looking for instability of the knee joint, examining the leg in various positions to see if it is possible to drag the shin bone forward in relation to the thigh bone.
Treatment ranges from physiotherapy to surgery, depending upon the extent of the injury. A return to competitive sport is likely to take at least six months.