What is a knee sprain?

A knee sprain is described as an injury or damage to any of the four ligaments that are responsible for supporting the knee.


It is important to note that a knee sprain typically occurs during certain sports, especially when there is twisting movement with the foot in contact in the ground. There is abrupt pain and can be accompanied by evident swelling. Take note that the pain can be severe. Determining the exact point of the pain might be difficult until the injury started to settle down.

Close look on a knee sprain

A knee sprain can occur in one or more of the ligaments in the knee. When it comes to a medial ligament sprain, it causes pain on the interior of the knee and usually a result of impact on the exterior part of the knee. As for a lateral ligament sprain, it causes pain on the exterior of the knee joint and often triggers by impact on the interior of the knee.

Knee sprain

There is abrupt pain and can be accompanied by evident swelling.

Knee sprains are graded 1, 2 or 3 depending on the severity of the injury and the degree of torn on the ligaments.

  • A grade 1 injury is considered as a minor tear in which about 10% of the fibers are torn.
  • A grade 2 injury is more severe in which about 10-90% of the fibers are damaged.
  • A grade 3 injury involves full rupture of the affected ligament.

Most cases of knee sprains occur during forceful movement involving the knee, especially when twisting or performing sideway movements which overly stretch out the ligament. Tackles in sports such as rugby and football are the usual causes. In addition, if the foot is planted and the upper body is twisted, it can lead to an injury to the ACL.


The treatment for knee sprains is the same for grade 1 and 2 injuries while severe cases will take longer in each stage of treatment. The grade 3 injuries are more difficult to manage and might require surgery, particularly if there are other injuries involved.

  • Stage 1 – The RICE method (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) is used in order to reduce the swelling, bruising and pain. If you want to learn more on how to effectively provide the RICE method, register for a first aid course. (Read here for more information about the courses offered). If needed, crutches are used to allow the knee to rest and minimize weight on the knee, until pain allows full weight bearing. The doctor will prescribe anti-inflammatory medications to ease the pain. In most cases, mobility exercises can be started once pain allows which involves mild bending of the knee.
  • Stage 2 – Mobility exercises are continued and if possible, proceed to full weight bearing. Techniques such as ultrasound or massage might be used by the physical therapist to help heal the ligament. Strengthening exercises are also recommended to avoid loss of muscle mass.
  • Stage 3 – Full weight bearing is usually possible at this point. The individual should start to increase the strengthening exercises by including lunges and squats. It is also recommended to include a balance exercise that involves the use of a wobble board is also recommended.


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