All our movements are coordinated by the different parts of the musculoskeletal system that interact with each other in a synchronized manner. The main parts of this musculoskeletal system include bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons. When there is high stress on these parts, various injuries occur. In case of knee injuries suffered by athletes, the common cause is torn knee cartilage or dislocated kneecap.
Causes of Dislocated Kneecap and Torn Cartilage of the Knee
The knee is made of two fibrous cartilages which are wedge-shaped and are known as menisci. Located at the outer edges of the knee joint, they act as shock absorbers for our body. Although they absorb a fair amount of shocks, sudden twisting of the leg can lead to tearing of these cartilages.
To understand how a torn knee cartilage can occur, imagine a scenario where a basketball player is on the offensive, but loses possession of the ball. Therefore, he transfers his weight from one leg to the other while turning around to give chase to the opponent’s play. At this moment, the player will experience acute pain resulting in a swollen knee. The piece of torn cartilage tends to lodge itself in the joint resulting in a locked knee. Locked knee is characterized by pain and restricted movement. In order to remove the fragment, surgery is an inevitable treatment.
Apart from this kind of injury, there are many other kinds of knee injuries that are worse than torn knee cartilage injuries. However, cartilage injuries have a higher rate of recurrence making it very difficult to manage. Recurrence can be as soon as the injury has healed or even much later. One of the worst side effects of torn knee cartilage is the onset of osteoarthritis after it wears out.
Knee injuries cause dislocation of the knee cap, known as patella, as it is forced out of its position in the thigh bone. However, in many cases the knee bone slides back into its original position; but in other cases the dislocated kneecap is locked out of its normal position which leads to severe pain and swelling.
Treatment for both torn knee cartilage and dislocated kneecap ideally starts with rest. In case of a torn knee cartilage, the treatment is largely dependent on the following three factors:
• The extent of damage
• Existence of tears before the current one
• The treatment of the previous tears
It is important to note that with each recurrence, damage of the joints takes place due to changing position along with scrapping of cartilage fragments. Usually, surgery is required to remove a part or the entire cartilage which is followed by physical therapy sessions. Yet, if there are chances that the cartilage can heal, meniscus repair is performed. In some cases a meniscus transplant maybe necessary where the wedge shaped cartilage of the knee joint is replaced using donor tissue.
In case of dislocated kneecaps, exercises that are handpicked by specialists are suggested to strengthen the quadriceps. Quadriceps are the greater extensor muscles in the front side of the thigh. However, if the problem persists, surgery may be required to avoid incapacitation or chondromalacia which is a kind of osteoarthritis. This condition is commonly seen in sportsmen such as tennis players, runners, cyclists, soccer players and skateboarders.
To summarize, our knees bear the burden of the body and are therefore are susceptible to injuries during strenuous sports. Utmost care should be taken in order to avoid knee injuries as it can make a person incapacitated for a long time, since the healing process is slow.