A knee sprain is the stretching or tearing of ligaments that support the knee. Ligaments are strong bands of tissue that connect bones to each other.
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Knee sprains may be caused by:
Factors that may increase your chance of developing a knee sprain include:
You will be asked about your symptoms and how the injury occurred. The knee will be checked to see how stable the joint is and how severe the pain is.
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
A minimally invasive procedure may be done to look inside of your knee. This can be done with arthroscopy.
Knee sprains are graded according to their severity. The injury is considered more severe if more ligaments are involved.
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The RICE method may help reduce discomfort and swelling:
Over-the-counter pain medication or topical pain medications in the form of creams or patches can be applied to the skin to reduce discomfort.
A brace may keep the knee from moving. Crutches may also be used with the brace. A brace may be needed when returning to sports. It may need to be custom made to support your knee rather than keep it from moving. Braces are not advised for children.
If you have a severe sprain, you may need to wear a short leg cast for 2-3 weeks.
Exercises may be advised to restore flexibility, range of motion, and strength. A referral to a physical therapist may be needed.
Surgery may be needed if a ligament is torn completely.
To reduce the risk of knee sprains:
American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Ortho Info—American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Canadian Orthopaedic Association
Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation
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Last reviewed June 2016 by Laura Lei-Rivera, PT, DPT, GCS Last Updated: 9/30/2013