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Hyperextension of the Knee

A hyperextended knee injury is most common in athletes and can occur when your knee is forcefully pushed beyond its typical range of extension. This can occur when jumping, running, skiing, stretching, or other activities that may require excess stress on the knees. Hyperextended knees often result in minor injuries such as strains or minor swelling.

In more sever cases, tearing of the PCL (posterior cruciate ligament), which is a ligament located inside of the knee joint, may occur. A hyperextended knee can also result in ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury. If you are an athlete, it is important to know the symptoms of a hyperextended knee so that you can receive the necessary treatment before the condition worsens.

Hyperextension of the knee, often referred to as hyperflexion knee is a very common sports related occurrence, as the movements and jumping required in many sports is one of the primary causes of injury. Fortunately, these injuries are very easy to treat, provided you seek out the necessary medical attention immediately.

Symptoms of a Hyperextended Knee:

Many of the symptoms that result from a hyperextended knee will occur within the first couple of hours after the injury occurs. If you believe that you may have hyperextended your knee, pay close attention for the following symptoms.

  • You may hear the knee pop or feel a popping in the joint when the hyperextension occurs.
  • The knee swells within just a few hours, post injury.
  • The back portion or side portions of the knee are in pain.
  • The knee no longer feels stable or capable of supporting your weight.
  • The pain is too intense to continue running or walking normally in the knee.

If any of the above symptoms occur, it is important to see a doctor immediately. Hyperextension of the knee is a treatable condition, and the sooner you seek medical attention, the sooner you will be able to get rid of your knee and joint pain and get back in the game. There are numerous injuries, ranging in severity, that can result when hyperextending your knee. The severity of the injury will determine the rate at which you recover, as well as the type of treatment you will receive. Experiencing any form of knee pain can be a sign of injury and should be immediately surveyed by a doctor.

Treatment Options:

In minor cases of hyperextension, the doctor may just recommend that you rest the knee and avoid physical activities for the next few weeks. In instances such as this, the knee should heal quickly, allowing you to begin using it again within a month. Even in a minor case, the use of crutches and a knee brace are highly recommended to treat the condition, as they will help to prevent further damage to the ligaments. Athletic tape can also be used to help provide structural support the knee, allowing you to use it more easily during games.

In more severe cases of hyperextension, more intensive levels of treatment may be necessary. You may require physical therapy in order for the knee to heal properly. A highly trained physical therapist will be able to gradually and safely help you to improve the movement of the knee over time. This will help tremendously and reduce your risk of further injury, as you will slowly ease the knee back toward full mobility.

In cases where the PCL or ACL are significantly damaged, you may be in need of surgery in order for the ligaments to properly heal. After the surgery is complete, the doctor will likely recommend a physical therapist to help you regain mobility of your knee. Consulting a doctor is the only way to know which treatment option is best for you.

What You Can Do:

In situations like this, there are numerous things that you can do to help expedite the healing process. By taking matters into your own hands, your knee will heal quicker and more effectively.

  • Get lots of rest. As an athlete, this may be difficult advice to hear. Keep in mind, the more you allow your knee to rest now, the sooner you will be able to regain strength and mobility. By pushing yourself and continuing to walk or use an injured knee, you are only increasing your chances of re-injuring it or worsening the severity of the injury.
  • Elevate your knee by raising it above where your heart is. Doing this regularly can help you to minimize the swelling of the injury and heal more rapidly.
  • Apply ice a couple of times a day to help minimize the swelling.
  • Compress the knee by wrapping it tightly in athletic tape or bandaging.
  • Do knee exercises regularly. Always consult a doctor before attempting any exercises to ensure that you are doing the correctly. A physical therapist can guide you and give you tips about which exercises will be most effective for your situation. Be sure to always do the exercises with both legs, even if only one knee is injured. This will help to minimize imbalances created in the strength of each leg.
  • Wear a knee brace. This will help to provide extra support to your injured knee, allowing the knee to heal more rapidly.

In Conclusion:

It is important to see a doctor as soon as joint or knee pain occurs. While a hyperextended knee is treatable, ignoring the symptoms can worsen the condition and even result in chronic knee pain later on. By understanding all of the signs of knee injuries in advance, you can recognize symptoms early on and get the help you need. Remember, the sooner you seek help, the sooner you will recover. By ignoring a problem, you will only contribute to its severity.

Though treating hyperextended knees is possible, it is best to just avoid the injury entirely. You can lower your risk or even prevent the onset of knee injuries by being cautious in sports and being aware of your own limitations. Furthermore, seeking attention anytime an injury, regardless how minor, occurs can help you to prevent further damage down the road.

References:

Chicago Primary Care Sports Medicine: Balu Natarajan, M.D. and Sara Brown, D.O.: Hyperextended Knee Injury
Medicine Plus: Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) Injury
MMAR Medical Group,, Inc.: Knee Hyperextension

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