As a large, complicated joint with many components, the knee is easy to injure. While being active for a lifetime is overwhelmingly good for overall health, it does increase the risk of knee injuries and so-called “bad knees” later in life.

If you have been an athlete for most of your life and have put a lot of strain on your joints, you might be suffering from knee pain and immobility now. Knee replacement surgery is an option after exhausting more conservative treatments.

Common Knee Injuries

A sports injury can potentially affect any body part, but the knee is particularly susceptible to common injuries. Many sports require a lot of repetitive knee movement, like running and cycling. Others involve twisting, turning, sudden stops, and jumps—such as basketball or soccer—that test the stability of the knee. Contact sports, like football, can cause collision-related injuries.

Chronic Strains and Sprains

Sprains and strains are often the mildest of knee injuries. They occur when movement causes a tendon, ligament, or muscle to stretch too far. A minor sprain or strain can cause temporary swelling, pain, and discomfort but generally heal with rest.

If you suffer chronic sprains or strains, you repeatedly injure the same tissue, causing more lasting damage that takes longer to heal. Chronic soft-tissue injuries can also make you more susceptible to additional injuries.

Torn Ligaments

A severe sprain occurs when a ligament tears, an unfortunately common athletic injury of the knee. Twisting, jumping, and turning most often cause tears in the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), which quickly causes pain and instability in the joint.

Less commonly, the same movements that cause an ACL tear can tear the PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) that runs behind it. A forceful blow during a contact sport can tear the medial collateral ligament, causing pain on the inside of the knee.

Meniscus Tear

The knee has two menisci, disks of tissue that cushion the joint, and they can tear to varying degrees during sports. Depending on which one tears, you will have outside or inside knee pain that might not feel too severe initially. However, the pain and swelling often worsen over a few days.


Fractures of the knee most often occur in the patella. The ends of the tibia and femur can also fracture. These breaks are most likely to occur as the result of a forceful trauma, like a fall.

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

A general sense of pain around the front of the knee is called patellofemoral pain syndrome. Also known as runner’s knee, this is a repetitive-use injury. Repeatedly bending the knee in the same way can cause pain, swelling, and stiffness behind the patella, or knee cap.

IT Band Injury

A repetitive injury common in sports like running and cycling, an IT band injury occurs when the iliotibial band rubs against the outside of the knee joint. This causes inflammation and pain, and it makes being active difficult.

Who Needs Knee Replacement Surgery?

A senior woman plays tennis outside.Years of being active, especially in certain sports, can cause injuries that lead to knee arthritis. Osteoarthritis is a natural part of aging, but it is often pronounced in joints that have suffered injuries.

It might seem like a drastic measure, but knee replacements are among the most common and successful of all surgeries. It might be the best solution if you are living with chronic pain and stiffness in your knee from years of wear and tear playing sports and being active.

Everyone is different and should be evaluated by an orthopedic knee specialist. In general, surgeons recommend a total knee replacement for anyone with:

  • Severe symptoms resulting from arthritis that make ordinary activities nearly impossible
  • Knee pain that persists even when resting
  • A deformity in the knee
  • Poor response to more conservative treatment measures, such as medications, injections, PT, and bracing.

An orthopedic joint specialist will evaluate your current symptoms, past injuries, imaging scans of the joint, and conservative treatment response to determine if you are a good candidate for a knee replacement. They will also consider your goals for treatment and the kinds of activities you hope to enjoy after surgery.

Knee replacement is a big decision, but it is generally a safe and effective solution for chronic pain resulting from arthritis. When you are ready to learn more about this procedure, request an appointment online to meet and consult with our EmergeOrtho—Triangle Region sports medicine and knee replacement specialists.

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