Knee Injuries in Athletes

The knee is the body’s largest joint and one of the strongest. Because the knee’s structure is complex, the joint is susceptible to many types of injuries – especially for athletes. UH’s expert team of sports medicine specialists are specially trained in the diagnosis and treatment of sports-related orthopedic conditions, for athletes of all ages and skill levels, ranging from youngsters to adults, professional athletes to Olympians.

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Certain sports, such as running, football, basketball, lacrosse or skiing, have increased risk of knee joint injury because of the harsh moves inherent to the sport. Sudden stops, twists and turns or the pressure put on the knee joint while running can cause knee pain or injury. Overuse through intense training or frequent play, or trauma from blunt force also can injure the athlete’s knee.

If your passion for sports leads to a knee injury, trust UH Sports Medicine for expert diagnosis and treatment to get you on the road to recovery quickly and avoid future injury.

Knee Conditions We Treat

Our team of Sports Medicine experts can treat conditions ranging from minor knee pain to the most complex injury.

Conditions we treat include:


The anterior cruiciate ligament (ACL) is one of the main stabilizing ligaments of the knee. Located inside the knee joint, the ACL holds together your thigh bone and your shin bone. The ACL also is one of the most commonly injured ligaments of the knee for athletes.

Athletes who participate in high-demand sports such as soccer, football and basketball are more likely to injure their ACL, and female athletes have a higher incidence in certain sports. ACL tears or ruptures can happen as a result of:

  • Cutting, pivoting or single-leg landing
  • Twisting the knee when the foot is planted or when landing on one foot
  • Trauma to the knee, usually to the outside

Symptoms of an ACL Injury

Injury to the ACL occurs during dynamic activities that primarily involve cutting and pivoting and can occur during landing after a jump.

The first sign that you may have injured your anterior cruciate ligament might be a popping noise or sensation. Your knee may give out and you may be unable to continue activity. You may feel severe pain and be unable to move your knee.

Within 24 hours, you are likely to experience knee pain with swelling. Your knee may feel unstable and become too painful to bear weight.

Other typical symptoms include:

  • Loss of full range of motion
  • Tenderness along the joint line
  • Discomfort while walking

If ignored, the swelling and pain may resolve on its own. However, if you attempt to return to sports without treatment, your knee will probably feel unstable and you risk further damaging the cushioning cartilage (meniscus) of your knee.

Which Athletes Are Most Susceptible for ACL Tears?

The majority of ACL injuries are non-contact and due to faulty mechanics. Athletes more susceptible to ACL include:

  • Competitive and recreational athletes between the ages of 15 and 25
  • Female athletes, who are at risk four to six times greater than male athletes
  • Female high school athletes, who have a ninefold increase injury risk
  • Female collegiate athletes, who have a fivefold increase injury risk
  • Female athletes who compete at a higher level of play, who have a five times higher risk than their male counterparts
  • Athletes who play in sports that require high dynamic loading of the knee, such as soccer, volleyball, handball and basketball

Our expert athletic and physical trainers can help to ensure athletes avoid ACL injuries through injury prevention programs that include plyometrics, neuromuscular training and strength training.

When injury does occur, our team of fellowship-trained sports medicine physicians can advise the best course for repair – whether it’s physical therapy or surgery – and help athletes return to activity.