Knee injuries are among the most common musculoskeletal injuries, typically resulting from participation in contact sports or slip-and-fall or motor vehicle accidents that result in significant, forceful impact to the knee. In fact, among adolescent athletes, the knee is the joint that’s most commonly injured, and knee injuries among young athletes account for about 2.5 million emergency room visits each year . Unlike knee surgeries that have long recovery periods and are associated with scarring, stem cell therapy is a well-tolerated treatment that uses the body’s natural capacity to heal itself. Moreover, the anti-inflammatory factors secreted from stem cells, particularly mesenchymal stem cells, are known to reduce inflammation at the affected area.
THE MOST COMMON INJURIES AND SYMPTOMS?
The knee joint comprises three bones – the thigh bone, shin bone and kneecap, or patella – as well as tendons, ligaments, cartilage, nerves and blood vessels. Injury to the knee can affect one component, but often affects more than one, making healing and recovery a complex process.
The most common knee injuries include .
- Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries
- Posterior cruciate ligament injuries
- Collateral ligament injuries
- Meniscal tears
- Tendon tears
- Patellar tendinitis
Injuries can also affect the cartilage. The cartilage in the knee protects the bony surfaces and prevents friction, enabling pain-free motion of the joint. In the knee, the cartilage is called the meniscus, and it has the additional role of distributing the weight of the body across the joint surface during motion. The meniscus has a very limited blood supply, which means when injury damages the meniscus, the healing process is impaired or slowed. Meniscus injuries are common among professional athletes, and surgery is often required to correct damage. Unfortunately, surgery to repair the meniscus often leads to cartilage deterioration and osteoarthritis .
Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) are also common among athletes, especially in sports that require twisting or repetitive pressure on the joint .
The most common symptoms of knee injury are swelling, pain or tenderness around the joint and pain when placing pressure on the joint . Many knee injuries, especially those affecting the ligaments, can result in feelings of instability. Other injuries can cause your knee to feel as if it’s “catching” or locking up during motion, or a clicking or crunching noise or grinding sensation may be present. During the injury itself and depending on the type of injury, a “popping” noise may be heard as ligaments snap or the bones of the joint move out of alignment.
The type of treatment provided for knee injuries depends on what kind of injury has occurred. For more mild sprains or strains, rest, ice, compression and elevation (RICE) can help speed recovery, at least in its earliest stages. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help reduce pain and inflammation, and steroid injections can aid in recovery when NSAIDs aren’t enough. Many knee injuries – even mild ones – require physical or occupational (or sports) therapy to regain strength, flexibility and range of motion.
Severe injuries including tears to the meniscus, ligaments and tendons as well as fractures require surgery to repair. Some surgery, including cartilage grafting procedures, can be done arthroscopically, using a small incision and special instruments to promote faster recovery and healing after surgery, but others require large incisions or “open” surgical techniques to gain more access to the area. For severe injury, knee replacement surgery is an option.
Following surgery, long periods of therapy are often required to help return the knee to full function. In some cases, full function cannot be restored, and many patients go on to develop arthritis that can become debilitating.