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What is a knee fracture?

A knee fracture occurs anytime one of the four knee bones break. A fracture of the knee would involve the lower end of thigh bone (femur), the upper portion of the shin bone (tibia), the kneecap (patella), or the smaller bone in the lower leg, the fibula, again the upper end. A fracture means there is a broken bone. The word ‘fracture’ is used interchangeably with a break of the bone. Medical terminology will use the word ‘fracture’ when referring to any incongruity of the bone. Knee fractures can involve just one bone or a combination of the four bones that comprise the knee joint. If a break occurs, there are several different and distinct types of fractures that may result. Like any other broken bone elsewhere in the body, knee fractures come with chronic pain.

What causes knee fractures?

Knee fractures are broken bones in or around the knee joint. So, if a strong enough force is aimed at the leg, one of several bones can break. This occurs when a force greater than the bone is able to withstand is directed toward the knee joint. Chronic knee pain and fractures are often seen in athletes, especially those in contact sports like football or soccer. Other causes of a fractured knee include:

  • Hard and repeated falls to the knees
  • Strong and direct hits to the knee joint
  • Injuries to other bones and muscles around the knee

When a strong enough force is directed at the knee, the positioning of the force as well as the strength of the bones, tendons, and ligaments will decide what structure in the knee is injured. If the force is strong enough, it will damage the weakest link. This happens by tearing a ligament or tendon, or fracturing a bone. A fractured knee can be a minor injury to the bones or a total and complete break. The specific cause of the knee fracture will determine what kind of break or injury affects the knee bones, and what subsequent treatment will be pursued.

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How to tell if knee is fractured

Whenever there is a broken bone anywhere in the body, there is likely to be chronic pain. Knee fractures are no different. With this injury, you can expect that there will be painful aching within the knee joint after a fracture. Some patients are able to pinpoint the exact moment when a fracture of a bone occurs. Other patients will not think that the pain they are experiencing is due to a broken bone. There are other symptoms to watch out for that do not necessarily mean that a bone is broken, but that medical treatment is needed immediately in order to receive an appropriate diagnosis. Imaging techniques such as x-rays are crucial in determining if you have a knee fracture. Some other symptoms of a knee fracture can look like:

  • Bruising around the knee
  • Instant swelling around the knee joint
  • Loss of range of motion in the knee, in other words the knee joint cannot easily bend or straighten
  • No amount of pressure can be placed upon the injured knee
  • Numbness of the foot on the side of the body that the injured knee is on, due to compromised nerves in the area
If You Are Experiencing Symptoms, Schedule an Appointment Dr. Burke Orthopedics Immediately.
Sport knee injury. Woman has pain in knee after run outdoors

How do I prevent knee fractures?

The knee joint consists of the four bones that come together at the middle of the leg. As stated above, these bones are the distal femur, proximal tibia, proximal fibula and patella. If any of these knee bones are compromised with a loss of anatomical congruity, there is a knee fracture. Protecting the knee bones consists of placing importance on several methods of prevention of a fracture. Some ways to protect your knees and prevent fractures are:

  • Wearing knee pads during contact sports
  • Building strength in the muscles surrounding the knee joint, in particular the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles
  • Strength training itself not only makes the muscles stronger, but the bones as well by adapting them to be able to withstand greater forces
  • Losing weight to relieve unnecessary pressure on the knee joint. When standing, all the weight of the entire body is a force that must be counteracted by the knees. Lessening this force can do wonders for knee pain
  • Care for other conditions that may affect the knee joint

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Disclaimer: Please note all medical information contained within this website should never be interpreted as a diagnosis or recommendation of treatment. If a diagnosis is needed, contact Dr. Burke Orthopedics for a personalized consultation. Information shared in testimonials and reviews are specific to that particular patient and may not be representative of the experience of others.