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Frequently Asked Questions about the Knee

What is an ACL knee injury?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is probably the most commonly injured ligament of the knee. In most cases, the ligament is injured by people participating in athletic activity. As sports have become an increasingly important part of day-to-day life over the past few decades, the number of ACL injuries has steadily increased. This injury has received a great deal of attention from orthopedic surgeons over the past 15 years, and very successful operations to reconstruct the torn ACL have been invented.


There are three types of ACL injuries:

  • First Degree Sprain: 
the fibers of the ACL ligament are stretched, but there is no tear in the fibers. There is a little tenderness and swelling. Weight bearing and walking are still possible. The knee does not feel unstable or give out during activity.
  • Second Degree Sprain: 
the fibers of the ACL ligament are partially torn. There is tenderness and moderate swelling. Walking feels uncomfortable, and you may need to limp. The joint may feel unstable or give out during activity. It is recommended that you consult your doctor for evaluation.
  • Third Degree Sprain: 
the fibers of the ACL ligament are completely torn and there is usually a lot of pain at the time of tear, but decreases as time passes. There may be some swelling or a lot of swelling. The ligament cannot hold the knee in place properly and the knee feels unstable and may give out and walking is usually difficult and may require the use of crutches. This type of injury requires a visit to the doctor and may require some degree of surgery.

A knee brace can be an effective treatment in some individuals, but in sporting individuals knee surgery for ACL reconstruction is usually indicated to restore knee joint stability and reduce the risk of developing knee arthritis in the long term. Following ACL surgery, physical therapy rehabilitation is very important.

Common ACL injury signs and symptoms:

  • you may here a 'pop' or 'crack' sound
  • Knee joint swells within a short time following the injury
  • Feeling of insecurity and giving way of the knee
  • Knee may feel like it wants to slip backwards
  • Difficult to straighten leg

What is recommended:

  • Apply cold therapy/ice packs
  • Wear a knee brace for protection
  • Consult a physician

More details on an ACL injury

What type of knee brace or support do I need?

First Degree Sprains can usually be self addressed by using cold therapy/ice packs, bracing and light exercises to improve the strength of the hamstring and quadriceps muscles. Braces for a First Degree Sprain will provide only mild support and are not usually sufficient to provide protection to joints where ligament injury has occurred or is a risk. These are usually used for mild support, warmth and compression.

Second Degree Sprains can heal on their own with self care. Although some ligament instability may still exist , it is important to provide the right treatment. To reduce symptoms, use ice, exercise and a compressive knee brace for 2-3 weeks.

Third Degree Sprains usually require surgery when a rupture is diagnosed. Post-surgical care involves efforts to restore natural movement of the knee. Physical therapy to rehabilitate the knee generally follows surgery. Ice packs are applied to reduce swelling and pain and knee braces are worn to help support the knee, provide compression to reduce swelling and hinged braces are necessary to provide more stabilization.

View all Knee Braces and Supports >>  

Who’s Wearing Knee Braces?

There are many participants of a variety of sports that wear knee braces either to prevent a first time injury or to prevent a re-occurring injury. There are also many people who wear knee braces for typical daily activities. Below is a list of many sports and activities where knee braces are being worn:

  • Basketball
  • Equestrian & Rodeo
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Motocross
  • Running & Walking
  • Skiing & Snowboarding
  • Soccer
  • Tennis
  • Volleyball
  • Water Sports

When to Wear Your Knee Brace?

If you are using your knee brace as a preventative device, then you will want to wear your brace while performing any activity that exposes your knee to any lateral movements such as tennis, basketball, volleyball, etc…

If you are using your knee brace as a rehabilitative or treatment device you should wear your brace while performing any daily activities to provide more stability and prevent re-injury.

If you're not sure when you should wear your brace, consult your physician for advice.


Common Knee Injuries

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries - Knee pain - Sprain or rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament, often caused by twisting the knee or an impact to the side of the knee.

Articular Cartilage Problems of the Knee - Injured areas, called lesions, show up as tears or pot holes in the surface of the cartilage that lines the ends of the bones.

Collateral Ligament Injuries - An injury to these ligaments usually involves a significant force, such as a fall while skiing or a direct impact to the side of the leg.

Hamstring Injuries - Rupture of the hamstring tendons as they insert into the back of the knee.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome - Iliotibial band (ITB) syndrome is an overuse problem that is often seen in bicyclists, runners, and long-distance walkers. It causes pain on the outside of the knee just above the joint.

Meniscal Injuries - In younger people, the meniscus is fairly tough and rubbery, and tears usually occur as a result of a forceful twisting injury. The meniscus grows weaker with age, and meniscal tears can occur in aging adults as the result of fairly minor injuries, even from the up-and-down motion of squatting.

Osteoarthritis of the Knee - OA is sometimes referred to as degenerative, or wear and tear, arthritis. OA commonly affects the knee joint.

Patellofemoral Problems - Alignment or overuse problems of the patella can lead to wear and tear of the cartilage behind the patella. This produces pain, weakness, and swelling of the knee joint.

Posterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries - The posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is one of the less commonly injured ligaments of the knee. The most common way for the PCL alone to be injured is from a direct blow to the front of the knee while the knee is bent.

To learn more about the knee and other common injuries, visit our Injury Info Center

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