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St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center

Care That Moves You

Sep 11 2013
Knee and Shoulder Injuries

Sports Knee Injuries

Most injuries are minor sprains/strains/contusions of the knee that can be simply treated with rest, ice, compression, elevation, (RICE) and anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen, motrin, aleve, etc).

However, some injuries are more severe resulting in structural damage to the knee – including ligament, tendon, and meniscal injuries.

Severe injuries usually present with significant swelling and pain.  Occasionally, one will feel a “pop.”  The most commonly torn structures are the meniscus and the ACL. 

You have 2 menisci in each knee – one of the inside and one on the outside. 

They function as rubbery shock absorbers in the knee that protect the cartilage from forces that may damage it.

When they tear they can be quite painful and cause swelling inside the knee called an effusion. 

Unfortunately, the meniscus has a poor blood supply; therefore, they rarely heal on their own. 

Surgery is usually needed to either repair the tear or to remove the torn portion (menisectomy).

The ACL is one of the main ligaments in the knee.

It  functions to provide stability to the knee.

 It prevents the shin bone (tibia) from sliding forward on the thigh bone (femur).

When it tears many people feel or even hear a pop.

The knee typically swells rapidly and is quite painful to walk on. 

Commonly, the knee will feel “loose” after the injury.

Unfortunately, the ACL does not heal on its own and commonly requires a “reconstruction” with another tendon or ligament to fix it.

Shoulder injuries

Shoulder injuries are largely age dependent.  Younger athletes (<30) typically hurt their shoulders from a traumatic event such as a fall or from a collision during sports.  Older (>30) athletes typically injure their shoulders from overuse activities.

Two common traumatic injuries are a shoulder dislocation and shoulder separation.

 A dislocated shoulder is where the ball comes out of the socket tearing the soft tissue structures (labrum, capsule, rotator cuff) that typically keep the shoulder in place.

 A shoulder separation is an injury to AC joint.  The AC joint is where the collarbone (clavicle) joins the shoulder at the acromion bone. 

Both injuries are typically treated without surgery; however, severe injuries sometimes need surgery to address them.  

Two of the most common overuse shoulder injuries are shoulder impingement and rotator cuff tears.  These are typically seen in athletes over the age of 30. 

Shoulder impingement is the mechanically abutment of the rotator cuff against the undersurface of the acromion bone. 

Between these two structures lies the subacromial bursa which can become inflamed and thickened leading to significant pain with shoulder with motion.

Impingement can usually be successfully treated with anti-inflammatories, rest, and physical therapy.  If those fail surgery is indicated.

Rotator cuff tears are extremely common.

The rotator cuff is made up of 4 muscles that originate on the shoulder blade (scapula) and attach to the ball of the shoulder (humeral head). 

The rotator cuff is the steering mechanism for the shoulder and when it is injured (torn) the shoulder functions poorly and is quite painful. 

Many people complain of night time pain and achiness that radiates down the arm the elbow.  

Partial tears can typically be treated with ice, anti-inflammatories, rest, and physical therapy. 

Full thickness tears (where the tendon has completely torn off the bone) usually require rotator cuff repair. 

The goal of the repair is the reattach the torn tendon securely to the bone.  This is usually done arthroscopically with bone anchors.

If you would like to schedule an appointment with Dr. Smart please call 315-452-2120.


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The information provided on this site should not be taken as medical advice. As always, we strongly recommend that you consult with a physician if you have any medical concerns.