Soccer can put a lot of strain on your knees. Anyone can get a knee injury—that’s whether you’re picking the game up for the first time, or you’re a long-time and experienced player.
It’s not just all the running and kicking in soccer that puts your knees at risk. The quick starts and stops of the game also tend to cause knee injuries because they can put a lot of stress on the knees and particularly on knee ligaments.
Here’s a few types of knee injuries to watch out as the fall season begins.
Ligaments are thick bands of tissue that connect bones together. A sprain happens when a ligament gets stretched or torn. Any joint that moves out of its normal range of motion is susceptible to a sprain.
Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
A torn ACL is the knee injury that you’ve probably heard the most about. The ACL is a ligament deep inside your knee that keeps the knee stable, preventing back-and-forth motions. It’s most commonly injured during quick, twisting motions, like quick stops or starts that put too much pressure on it.
Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL)
Like the ACL, the PCL is a ligament that stabilizes the knee. It runs from the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). It can also be torn, although it’s larger than the ACL. It’s usually injured when something hits the front part of the knee, like a soccer ball.
Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL)
The MCL is a ligament that runs on the inside of the knee, connecting the thigh bone (femur) to the lower leg bone (fibula). The MCL keeps the knee from bending inward. It can be injured with a side blow to the knee that travels to put pressure on the inside of the knee. It can also be injured in a twisting or bending motion, including motions that start from a quick change of direction.
Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL)
The LCL is a ligament which runs on the outside of the knee, running from the bottom of the thigh bone (femur) to the top of the lower leg bone (fibula). It’s likely to be injured from a blow that hits the inside of the knee, since the pressure from that blow travels to the outside of the knee. Because hitting the inside of the knee doesn’t happen very often, this type of injury is more unusual. But when it does happen, it can be particularly slow to heal. It’s also common to injure other ligaments in the knee along with the LCL.
The meniscus is a piece of cartilage in your knee that helps absorb the shock of moving or jumping on the knees. You have two on each side of the knee joint. They prevent the bones of the knees from rubbing on each other.
Unfortunately, it just takes a twist of the knee to tear the meniscus. The meniscus is usually damaged when changing directions quickly. Sometimes, a piece of meniscus can break loose and stick in the knee joint, which can cause it to lock.
Kneecap dislocations are more common in female soccer players than in male soccer players. They happen when the kneecap pops out when making a sharp turn or twists. It’s important to put the kneecap back into place to avoid experiencing cartilage damage. After a kneecap dislocation, it’s important to undergo a rehabilitation program to help lessen the chance of experiencing another one, or further knee damage.
Treating Soccer Knee Injuries
There are different severities of ligament injury, from a slight sprain to a full tear. Mild ligament injuries usually mean that the ligament is stretched but still intact, while severe ligament injuries like a tear can be much more painful. Usually, you’ll know if you have a bad knee injury when it happens—there can even be an audible popping sound right at the moment of injury. Other signs of a severe ligament tear include swelling, or inability to put weight on the knee without it feeling unstable.
Even a small knee injury should be taken seriously. It’s important to determine the severity of the injury and properly treat it before returning to the field. If you have injured your knee playing soccer or are experiencing any of the above symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor or orthopedist today.