Knee hyperextension is a common problem experienced by some athletes across a broad range of sports. This particular condition can at times be debilitating, but its severity varies depending on the cause of knee hyperextension injury and on the body/health of each athlete. In most instances, a knee hyperextension injury may show visible symptoms including reduced range of movement, swelling, localized pain that is sharp, and lack of stability on the affected leg.
Hyperextension of the knee occurs when the joint of the knee is made or forced to stretch beyond its actual range of motion. When this happens, a significant amount of force is exerted upon one of the four main ligaments of the knee joint including the ACL, PCL, MCL & LCL. For more information on these ligaments, read our post on the Knee Anatomy.
It is equally important to note that the condition can occur to anybody, but is mostly as a result of injuries caused by athletic activities. Individuals who participate in sports like soccer, basketball or lacrosse are often affected.
What Can Cause a Knee Hyperextension Injury
When excess weight or pressure forces your knee into extension, your joint is likely to extend further than its actual range of motion, resulting in soft tissue damage, potential strains or tears, and swelling of the ligaments. Common causes include:
- The unexpected impact to the front of the knee, leading to the backward motion of the knee joint, which may cause the ACL to tear or strain. This type of impact is likely to occur during situations of traumatic physical activity, such as when a football player is tackled by the leg.
- Pushing your patella or the femur over the tibia and putting stress on either of the four primary ligaments within the joints. This would happen when an athlete stops unexpectedly and puts all of his/her weight on one leg.
Symptoms Of a Knee Hyperextension Injury
This condition may occur at different levels of severity, implying that the symptoms will be contingent upon the body of individual athlete, the total strength of the knee joint plus the method of hyperextension. Some of the common symptoms are:
- Decreased mobility – The condition is likely to lead to a limited mobility to the affected individuals. This will manifests as a decreased range of movement as a result of lack of strength in the joint, pain and swelling.
- Presence of bruises – If the condition was traumatic enough to cause destruction to ligaments or the anterior tender tissues, bruising will appear on your skin.
- The presence of fluid on the knee – If you didn’t know, accumulation of fluid within the joint is common after knee hyperextension injury. This will reduce the mobility of the knee, and is often referred to as “fluid on the knee”.
- Pain in the knee – As a result of this particular condition, you are likely to experience a localized pain in your knee. Based on whether or not one of the primary ligaments in the joint was damaged, the pain will be concentrated in one location.
- Instability of the affected knee – Individuals will notice that the affected knee is less sturdy or stable compared to the healthy leg. The damaged knee will have a feeling of buckling or of giving out.
Diagnosing a Knee Hyperextension Injury
The process of diagnosing this condition varies from patient to patient, bearing in mind that its severity is wide. For example, a person who suffers from a traumatic hyperextension may realize torn ligaments, bruising, and have lots of pain while others who suffered a mild injury may just have slight swelling and a slightly reduced mobility. Due to this, the diagnostic process will comprise of three primary factors:
- History of the patient – Before giving any form of treatment, the doctor will consider the medical history of an individual. To be precise, a person with prior knee problems might be more susceptible to a severe knee hyperextension injury.
- Physical examination – Under this, the doctor will check the individual’s range of motion by moving the leg backward and forward. In certain conditions, the leg may be locked, indicating that the pain is more severe. In this process, the doctor will also look out for swelling or visible bruising that might be due to other internal damages.
- Imaging – In most occasions, imaging is performed if the injury is severe enough. Typically, X-rays or an MRI are performed.
Treating a Knee Hyperextension Injury
Here are several methods used to treat a hyperextended knee:
- For milder cases, anti-inflammatory medications may be suggested to reduce the swelling of the knee joint.
- In addition, your doctor will most likely recommend that you ice your knee to get rid of the swelling and inflammation. One easy way to accomplish this is by using a cold therapy knee wrap, such as the following one from SimplyJnJ:
- In more traumatic situations, surgery may be necessary in order to repair some (or all) of the damage that happened during the injury.
- In some cases your doctor may suggest the use of a knee brace until the situation gets better. Knee braces that are well known to prevent knee hyperextension include:
We hope that this gives you a better idea on what a knee hyperextension injury is and how to deal with it if it ever happens to you, or has happened to you. If you were unfortunate enough to suffer this type of injury, we would love to get your feedback by using the comments section below.
Disclaimer – I am not a doctor and I am not qualified to provide medical advice on your knee hyperextension injury. This was posted for informational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Read full disclaimer.