Knee injuries among children and adolescents might be due to acute, traumatic injuries such as a fall or chronic, repetitive overuse injuries. In some circumstances, knee injuries might be due to various factors. An example is having a chronic condition that worsens abruptly due to an acute traumatic event. These injuries might lead to various symptoms including pain, swelling, instability and stiffness.
Common knee injuries
One of the common causes of knee pain among young athletes is the patellofemoral pain syndrome. This condition involves pain in the front part of the knee that is linked to overuse of the patellofemoral joint. Take note that this can also be caused by a direct blow to the patella.
The pain in the front part of the knee can also be due to patellar tendinitis which triggers pain in the patellar tendon. This tendon is attached to a bump on the tibia. Among young athletes, this is called Osgood-Schlatter disease that causes pain due to the irritation of the growth plate.
Cartilage and ligament injuries
The most common knee injuries involving the ligament is a medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain. Sprains are graded on the scale of 1-3. An MCL sprain occurs on the interior side of the knee and often occurs when the outside of the knee is hit and forced inwards. Most cases of MCL sprains can be managed without surgery.
Injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) occurs due to twisting or pivoting movement. This injury can put an individual at risk for repeat knee injuries and instability in the future that often requires surgery.
Growth plate injuries, dislocations and fractures
Knee fractures occur rarely in childhood sports, but knee injuries among growing children increases the risk for fractures linked to one of the growth plates.
Any of the bones of the knee joint can be damaged. It is important to note that certain type of knee injuries which disrupts the capability to bear weight or fails to improve within a few days requires assessment by a doctor.
The tibial tuberosity is a vulnerable spot among growing children. This is the lump on the front part of the knee where the patellar tendon attaches. A break or fracture to the growth plate in this region often requires surgery.
Dislocations of the kneecap occasionally occur among children and teenagers. Oftentimes, there is an evident deformity of the knee in which the kneecap is positioned toward the exterior of the knee. In some, they feel something pop out of the joint and then pop back in. Once this occurs, the patella must be restored to its proper position as soon as possible.
When to seek care
Always bear in mind that sports injuries during childhood are common, luckily most knee injuries heal with rest and no longer require intensive treatment such as surgery. Generally, a knee injury that results to evident deformity or inability to bear weight requires medical attention.
For other knee injuries, it is enough to allow the child to rest for 2-3 days. Application of ice and elevation are beneficial for the initial 24-48 hours. In case the symptoms persist for more than a few days despite these measures, consult a doctor.