Traumatic knee problems

Knee complaints are the most common musculoskeletal complaints after back complaints. Knee complaints are divided into traumatic and non-traumatic knee problems. This article discusses traumatic knee complaints.

Cause and complaints

Damage to the knee can lead to pain, swelling and limited range of motion. It is often a bruise or sprain. These complaints usually take a number of weeks to heal. A tear in the knee ligament or damage to the joint is often the cause of an accident that involves a lot of external violence. This could, for example, involve a twisting of the knee during a game of football. Swelling and pain may occur immediately and up to several hours after the accident. This is because fluid or blood runs into the joint cavity. Injuries to the cruciate ligaments are the cause of approximately 10% of knee complaints. These are usually sports injuries. Damage to the meniscus is the cause of approximately 6% of knee complaints. Bone fractures of the knee and shin are not very common.
Dislocation of the kneecap is more common. The kneecap then shoots to the side for a moment, and often on its own it shoots back again. Sometimes it is necessary for a doctor to push the kneecap back again.

Knee is locked

Sometimes the knee is locked after an accident. The patient can no longer straighten the knee, even if someone else tries to straighten the leg. This is usually caused by a loose piece of meniscus.

Examination by the GP

The doctor will pay particular attention to the load-bearing capacity of the knee, pain, swelling and closing symptoms. Taking an X-ray is not always useful and is only done if a bone fracture is suspected. If, after an accident, the knee can no longer bear any weight at all, or if the knee can no longer be bent to 90 degrees, an x-ray is necessary. The decision to take an X-ray is made earlier in the elderly and in children.


If an examination by the GP is not possible due to the pain and swelling, a new appointment is often made a few days to a week later. Once the swelling has reduced, examining the knee is often easier. Until then, the patient can use crutches to walk. After a bruise or sprain, the patient can be referred to a physiotherapist for exercise therapy to strengthen the muscles again. There are not very many reasons to refer directly to an orthopedic surgeon. An appointment should only be made at short notice if the knee is in a locked position.


In the event of a sprain, bruise, partial knee ligament tear or if the knee has been dislocated, it is advisable to try to load the knee as normally as possible, although care should be taken that this does not cause too much pain. Crutches could also be used during the first few days. In case of damage to the meniscus or cruciate ligaments, rest is initially recommended. The knee may be loaded and bent again as soon as the pain permits.

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