Soccer Knee Injuries – How to Treat Them
Have you ever experienced a knee injury playing soccer? Or, maybe you know of a player who is experiencing soccer knee injuries. Whatever the case may be, in this article, we’ll address the different kinds of knee injuries and how to treat them.
Although many non-soccer fans often say that soccer is not a contact sport, simply watching a match will tell you otherwise.
In fact, soccer players experience many injuries over their playing career. Knee injuries are one of the most common forms of injuries players experience.
If you are interested in playing soccer, then it helps to become familiar with the most common injuries affecting players. Understanding this will help you prepare and possibly prevent any of these from happening to you.
Or, if it’s already happened, this article will help you get back on the field faster.
Without further ado, here are the most common soccer knee injuries.
Torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
This type of injury is characterized by an overly bent or twisted knee. It usually comes along with one or two pops, extreme pain, and swelling.
In most cases, an ACL injury is severe enough that it may lead to the stoppage of the game so you will be assisted off the field. The reason behind the severity of this injury is that it tends to completely tear the ACL, which is an important ligament in the knee.
Once you suspect that it is a potential ACL injury, you should visit a specialist as soon as you can.
To treat ACL tears, medical professionals often diagnose the condition first using your medical history, knee x-rays, and physical exam.
In most cases, the affected knee is not that swollen, making it possible for the doctor to examine it closely. Most doctors also have physical findings that will indeed indicate that there is an acute ACL tear.
These findings include restricted flexion and extension, tenderness in the lateral or medial joint line, and hemarthrosis.
You will also have to undergo an MRI scan to confirm that there is a tear and eliminate other possible injuries, like a meniscal tear or lateral bone bruise.
How to Treat a Torn ACL
As for the treatment, the initial recommendation would be to rest, ice, compress and elevate (RICE).
You may also have to use crutches and/or a knee brace and perform a few knee exercises designed to help bring back the complete movement of your knees.
In case the affected knee swells a lot, the blood from your knee will be drained from the first time you visit the doctor’s office. This should help in minimizing the pain you experience.
Additionally, over-the-counter (OTC) pain medications such as acetaminophen may be recommended to manage pain and inflammation.
For many soccer players, coming back from a torn ACL will require consistent physical therapy to provide strength and stability post-injury.
Patella (Kneecap) Instability
This type of soccer knee injury refers to any case that causes your kneecap to have a hard time communicating with your thigh bone, thereby leading to extreme pain in the knee as you run, jump, and kick.
The most extreme case of disruption is what we call patellar dislocation, which occurs when your kneecap ends up becoming fully out of its normal position. In rare cases, it will end up being on the outer part of your thigh bone.
The kneecap can typically be repositioned while you are still on the soccer field using a specific relocation movement. However, there are other cases that need special medication and an emergency room visit as a means of relaxing the affected knee.
This type of injury may also cause the knee to be partially out of joint. This is what we call patellar subluxation. It is an abnormal movement to the outer part of the knee, which may occur recurrently.
If you want to lower your chance of experiencing this injury affecting your kneecap, you should make it a point to learn proper running, cutting and landing skills.
How to Treat Patella Instability
To treat patella instability, you may be asked to do exercises designed to strengthen your hip, knee, and upper leg regions regularly.
You should also stretch your muscle groups as much as possible.
In addition, you may need to use a knee sleeve brace, one that has sufficient support or padding for your kneecap’s exterior.
Similarly to other knee injuries, pain medications such as Advil or Tylenol can help minimize the swelling and manage the pain.
A meniscus injury is a tear or rupture of the cartilage that sits between the thigh bone (femur) and the shinbone (tibia) in the knee joint. Meniscus injuries are common among soccer players from twisting, pivoting, or hyperextending the knee.
The problem with the meniscus is that they tend to get injured even with a sudden or unwanted twist of your knee. It often gets damaged if you rapidly change directions, which is usually the case for soccer players.
There are also instances when a piece of this cartilage ends up breaking loose and sticking to your knee joint. The result is that it will lock, leading to its injury.
How to Treat Meniscus Injuries?
The treatment for an injured or torn meniscus usually starts conservatively and depends on the size, location, and type of tear. The most common recommendations of doctors would be the following:
- Rest, which means you should stop doing any activity that may worsen the pain in your knee – These include activities that lead to the rotation, twisting, and pivoting of your knee. For severe pain, you should use crutches to heal and remove pressure from your knee.
- Ice, which is a huge help in reducing the pain and swelling in your knee – Apply a cold pack on the area for around twenty minutes while ensuring that your knee stays elevated. Do it every four to six hours on the first two days. After that, you can apply the cold pack only as frequently as necessary.
- Over-the-counter medications – You may take OTC pain relievers to ease the pain and swelling in your knee.
There are also instances when you will have to go through physical therapy to recover from a meniscus injury. The goal of this therapy is to strengthen your knee and leg muscles, thereby providing support to your knee joint and bringing back its stability.
For severe cases, like when you still feel extreme pain in your knee even if you already went through rehabilitative therapy or in case it gets locked, a surgical procedure may be necessary to repair the meniscus. It usually involves trimming your meniscus surgically with the help of an arthroscope, which can help make small incisions.
After the procedure, your doctor will recommend exercises as well as physical therapy that will help you maintain and improve the strength and stability of your knees.
Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) Tears
An MCL tear refers to an injury to the medial collateral ligament, which is one of the four major ligaments that stabilize the knee joint. The MCL runs along the inside of the knee joint and helps to prevent excessive side-to-side motion.
An MCL tear usually occurs as a result of a direct blow to the outside of the knee, or from a twisting or hyperextension injury.
How to Treat MCL Tears?
It is crucial to note that MCL tears are often graded based on how injured the structure is.
The tear is graded one if the structure is slightly injured without affecting the stability of the knee. Athletes diagnosed with a Grade 1 MCL tear can restore their full function and performance within one to two weeks.
The MCL tear is graded number 2 if you experience gapping in your knee while several fibers in the ligament remain intact. A lot of cases of Grade 2 MCL tear can be treated in just four to six weeks through a rehabilitation program.
For grade 3 MCL tears, which involve a complete tear of the ligament, the recovery period can be up to 12 weeks or more. Treatment may involve surgery to repair the torn ligament, followed by a period of immobilization and physical therapy to regain strength and range of motion in the knee.
It’s important to note that recovery times can vary and may depend on various factors, including age, overall health, and the presence of any other injuries or conditions. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions and attend all recommended follow-up appointments to ensure proper healing and recovery.
When Should You Seek Treatment?
If you love soccer and play it a lot, you should treat your body as a temple. We’ve all heard that, right? Make it a priority to ensure you are as healthy as possible. For minor aches and pains, RICE (rest, ice, compress and elevate) will often do the trick.
On the other hand, if you hear a pop or can’t walk three steps without being in pain, contacting a medical professional as soon as possible to get it looked at should be your priority.
Take action immediately so the injury can be diagnosed and treated without more damage to your body.
As an athlete of any age, the worst thing you can do is ignore the injury. By being proactive, you can speed up your recovery so you can get back on the field with your team again!