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Knee Injury 101: What To Expect With a Knee Injury From Car Accident Impacts

Knee Injury 101 What To Expect With a Knee Injury From Car Accident Impacts

A car accident knee injury occurs due to various motor vehicle collisions. It is natural to wonder what your life will look like following an accident going forward. Most people experience temporary or permanent disability in their lifetime. About 15% of people, globally experience disability.

A severe knee injury may result in knee pain and temporary or permanent disability. As much as you may want to move forward with life how it used to be, there may be some changes that you have to undergo. Knee injury treatment may look different for all patients.

How Common Are Car Accident Injuries?

How Common Are Car Accident InjuriesIn a motor vehicle collision, your body may be jerked inside your car at high speeds. Not only does your vehicle sustain damage, but so does your body. For every 1000 people, there are about five emergency department visits due to car accidents every year. Throughout the U.S., over three million people suffer from car accident injuries that require emergency medical attention. Many of these car accident victims suffer soft tissue injuries or broken bones, including knee injuries.

What Should You Do Following an Accident?

If you are worried about a knee injury from a car accident, you have to determine what your next steps should be. After all, for some injuries, you may only need to care for yourself from the comfort of your own home.

Following knee damage, inflammation is common. Inflammation is your body’s response to the injury. Most treatments require you to disrupt the inflammation so your knee can heal. Unfortunately, if you cannot ease it, it may become chronic or lead to other injuries.

Caring for Your Knee Injury

Caring for Your Knee InjuryOne of the most common ways to stop inflammation is to protect your knee. Padding or splinting may help your leg remain at rest. For example, padding over the kneecap may prevent further injuries.

Do not overwork your knee if you experience any discomfort or pain, even for minor knee injuries. Rest can reduce the strain and give your body time to heal. Ice can also reduce swelling and help with chronic and acute knee injuries and pain. Try to ice your injury about two or three times a day for about 20 to 30 minutes.

If you have swelling, elevate your leg to reduce it. Gravity helps keep the fluid from accumulating. If you have a recliner, use it to elevate your legs. Always prop injured limbs higher than the heart. If necessary, use NSAIDs to help with swelling and pain. While you can also use acetaminophen for pain, it does not address inflammation.

Seeking Medical Attention

Sometimes, resting and caring for your injuries at home is not enough. After an accident, you may overlook the extent of the damage until later.

Accidents cause your body to produce adrenaline. Likewise, you may be in shock because of the collision itself. With your focus elsewhere, you may not recognize the severity of your injuries until you have time to rest. In other situations, the symptoms may not manifest right away.

If you cannot alleviate your knee injury symptoms after a week of treatment, you could have deeper injuries that need medical attention. There are some instances where you may need immediate medical attention.

If you cannot put any weight on your knee, you should consider an evaluation by emergency doctors. You may have unbearable pain or pain that does not improve, regardless of icing or resting it.

  • Other symptoms may include:
  • Inability to put any weight on your leg
  • Nausea and sickness
  • Puncture wounds at the site of the injury
  • Inability to stay asleep because of the pain

If you have a bleeding disorder or have to take blood thinners for any reason, swelling may indicate a need to see an emergency care provider.

Which Types Of Knee Injuries Are the Most Common?

Which Types Of Knee Injuries Are the Most CommonYour knee is a complex body part, making a car accident knee injury challenging to treat. Your knee joins your shin to your thigh. A small bone runs alongside your tibia and your kneecap to make up the knee joint. Along with bones, you have tendons that connect your bones to the muscle and ligaments that provide stability and join the knee bones. Knee ligament injuries often occur in an automobile accident.

For example, your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) prevents your femur from sliding backward, the medial collateral ligament (MCL) prevents the femur from sliding and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) prevents the femur from sliding forward. A PCL injury after your knee hits the dashboard in a car crash is also called “dashboard knee.”

Next, the lateral and medial menisci are two C-shaped pieces of cartilage. They serve as shock absorbers. A meniscus injury like a torn meniscus can be debilitating.

Last, your knee moves slowly due to various fluid-filled sacs known as numerous bursae. Understanding the components of the knee and the nature of ligament injuries can make your knee injury from a car accident make more sense.

Here are some other common knee injuries from car accidents:

Dislocated Knee

If the three bones that make up your knee become knocked out of place or do not align how they should, you may have a dislocated knee. Generally, patients dislocate their knees during a traumatic incident where great force pushes the bones out of place.

You may notice your shin or thigh bone is entirely or at least partially out of its normal position. Keep in mind that a dislocated knee is not a dislocated kneecap. Dislocated kneecaps occur when your kneecap slips out of position.

If you have a dislocated knee, you may hear a popping sound at the time of the injury. You will not be able to straighten or move your knee without severe pain. In addition, your knee may feel unstable or look like it’s knocked out of position. Additionally, you may see swelling and bruising around the site.

To test for a dislocated knee, doctors examine the area. They may need to push on different areas of the leg to look for damaged ligaments. Ligament damage commonly accompanies dislocation.

You may also have damage to your blood vessels or nerves that leaves the color and the temperature of your skin different than usual. To test for changes in the blood flow, doctors can use the ankle-brachial index test.

Essentially, you have your ankle blood pressure compared to your normal blood pressure. If your ankle’s blood pressure is low, you may have a problem with the circulation to your leg.

The most common tests for a dislocated knee are imaging tests. The doctor may use an X-ray or MRI to confirm whether your bone is no longer in the joint or if any ligaments suffered damage due to the injury.

Fractured Knee

A knee fracture may also be called a patella fracture. This is a break to the bone covering your joint. Generally, you only fracture your knee if you undergo trauma. For instance, a knee injury from car accident may result in a fracture.

Think of your patella as a shield to your joint. Often, in car accidents, a patient’s knee may hit the dashboard and fracture. While some fractures may be minor, others can result in the bone breaking into several pieces. If your kneecap breaks, you may be unable to flex or extend your knee. In addition, if you damage the cartilage during the break, it can lead to post-traumatic arthritis.

If you have a kneecap fracture, you will experience swelling, pain and bruising. Likewise, you may struggle to walk, straighten your leg or raise your leg. Most patients cannot walk on a broken knee. In addition, you may be able to feel the change in your kneecap if you touch the skin above it.

There are various types of knee fractures, including the following:

  • Displaced fractures: The broken pieces of bone do not line up in a displaced fracture. Instead, they are outside of their normal position.
  • Stable fractures: If you have a stable fracture, your bones did not move during the break. They may still be connected. They cannot be separated by more than a couple of millimeters in most cases. Generally, you can still bear some weight on your leg with the help of a cast or hinged knee brace.
  • Comminuted fractures: If your bone shatters into three or more pieces, you have a comminuted fracture. In some cases, you may need to have pieces of bone removed.
  • Open fractures: In an open fracture, your skin over the bone breaks. Sometimes, this means that the bone itself has pierced the skin, but it can also refer to an object piercing your knee. You have to treat the fracture, but you also have to treat the open wound.
  • Transverse fractures: If your kneecap breaks into two pieces, you have a transverse fracture. Generally, doctors will suggest you fix a transverse fracture with surgery.

The type of fracture may determine whether you require surgery or other treatment.

What Are the Treatment Options Available for Knee Injuries?

What Are the Treatment Options Available for Knee InjuriesOnce your doctor makes a diagnosis, he or she can work with you on a treatment plan for your injured knee. The treatment plan provided depends on the severity of your injury. Both surgical options and non-surgical options are generally followed by physical therapy. Physical therapy helps you regain your strength and flexibility following an injury or surgical intervention.

Knee Replacements

About 600,000 patients undergo a knee replacement every year. If other repair techniques do not work, your surgeon may suggest a complete knee replacement. The physician removes your knee joint entirely during surgery and replaces it with a prosthesis. The prosthesis will be made of ceramic, plastic or metal.


In an osteotomy, the doctor reshapes and repositions your bones. The idea behind osteotomy is to take the weight off of your knee. Often, doctors suggest an osteotomy if you have a broken bone that doesn’t heal correctly.


Arthroscopy is not as invasive as other forms of surgery. The surgeon makes a small incision over the knee and inserts tiny instruments to do the work. With arthroscopy, the surgeon can repair torn ligaments, cartilage and menisci. In addition, they can also trim pieces of the cartilage or remove the inflamed lining.


When you do not have severe damage, your physician may not need to use surgery to fix the dislocation or fracture. Instead, you may have to keep your knee from moving. For example, in the case of a dislocation, doctors may be able to pop the bone back into its proper place.

When immobilization is the treatment, your doctor may provide you with a brace to support and protect the joint. Braces extend below and above the knee but allow you to walk and bend while wearing them. However, you cannot overextend or move your knee from side to side.

What Does Recovery Look Like Following Knee Injury Treatment?

What Does Recovery Look Like Following Knee Injury TreatmentThe recovery time for different injuries depends on multiple factors. The type of injury, the severity of the injury, your age, health, and the treatment’s success all play a role in how you’ll feel week after week. Most people who have a fractured knee feel better after about six weeks. Generally, they can return to their normal activities six weeks following the fracture.

If you have knee dislocation surgery, it can take a long time for you to heal fully. You will probably need to undergo rehabilitation for at least one year following the injury. Following the operation, you may need to wear knee braces. Following, you would see a physical therapist to help you strengthen your muscles and gain your range of motion back.

After a complete knee replacement, most patients have improved function after the operation. About 90% of all prostheses still function after 15 years of use. After knee surgery, you may be able to return to work within a few weeks, but you still may have difficulty lifting heavy objects.

Schedule an Appointment Following a Knee Injury

At Neuro Injury Care, we understand the importance of quality medical care. You are more likely to reach your full potential during recovery with expert doctors at your side. Our facilities have the appropriate diagnostic tools to evaluate your central nervous system and take the brain and spinal fluid. Our doctors can diagnose and treat all neurological conditions.

Following a car accident, it is common to have multiple, serious injuries that have the potential to interrupt how you function in daily life. Knee injury treatment may not be all you need during your recovery process. Our doctors accept no-fault insurance, PIP (Personal Injury Protection), workers’ compensation, medical liens, LOPs (Letters of Protection), and most health insurance plans).

Contact us today to set up an appointment and learn more about the type of medical care we offer patients.


About The Author

Picture of Ashwin Malhotra, M.D.

Ashwin Malhotra, M.D.

Ashwin Malhotra, M.D. is a highly respected neurologist based in New York City. With over 20 years of experience in the field of neurology, he has earned a reputation as a leading expert in the diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders and traumatic brain injuries. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Malhotra is also a dedicated educator and researcher. He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed medical journals and has presented his research at national and international conferences.