While whiplash and concussions are the most common injuries sustained in a car accident, there are a number of other common injuries that are reported by victims. One area that is particularly susceptible to damage is the knee- while you may not think about it, knee injuries from car accidents are common and can have devastating effects. A dislocation is a common form of injury to the knee which can be highly dangerous without proper treatment.
What Is a Knee Dislocation?
Simply put, a knee dislocation happens when the bones in the knee are partially or completely out of place. To get the bones out of place, major force is necessary because of the extremely powerful muscles and ligaments surrounding the knee. In that area alone, you can find the quadriceps muscles, the Medial Collateral Ligament, Lateral Collateral Ligament, and Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL). When a strong enough trauma occurs, the position of the thighbone relative to the shinbone can become disrupted, despite all of the surrounding soft tissues. This shift can lead to damage in important ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves in the surrounding area.
In most cases, the symptoms related to a knee dislocation will be immediately apparent. However, after a car accident, the shock and adrenaline could cause a delay in you noticing any pain, so you should be conscious of visual cues as well. A popping sound may occur during the injury, and a visible deformity or swelling may become obvious. The knee is also likely to be unstable and have a limited range of motion, leaving you unable to perform simple tasks like walking or other physical activity.
Cause of a Dislocated Knee
When your car collides with another, the vehicle typically comes to a sudden stop. However, your body has built up momentum and cannot stop as quickly as the vehicle. This leaves anyone sitting in the front seats particularly susceptible to knee injuries, as their knees can hit the bottom of the steering column or the dashboard on impact. If the force of this impact is strong enough, the PCL can be torn. When the PCL is torn, your knee loses an important layer of protection from a posterior dislocation, which occurs when the force is concentrated in the front of the knee. This is most common in a car accident, so much so that a PCL injury can even be called “dashboard knee” in some cases.
Most knee dislocations are lateral or medial, where the force comes from the side or behind, which is usually less dangerous than the posterior variety. This is why a knee injury from a car accident may require more medical care than other common knee injuries.
Treatment for Knee Dislocation
When you present with symptoms of a dislocated knee, a doctor will typically be able to diagnosis the condition from a series of clinical evaluations. In some cases, the visual cues will be strong enough that that is all that is needed. Doctors may also check vitals in your leg, like your pulse and blood pressure, to help determine the type of injury caused. But even then, you will likely undergo a series of diagnostic imaging to assess the severity of the injury and understand the scope of the damage. In addition to the PCL movement and the dislocated bone, nerves and arteries can be damaged or even severed when the injury occurs. The popliteal artery being torn could lead to a patient bleeding out, while certain nerve damage could lead to loss of mobility. This is why it’s important for your doctor to ensure they understand the exact circumstances surrounding your dislocated knee.
The first line of treatment will be what is called a reduction, in which the knee is moved back into its proper position. This is done manually by your practitioner, and you will likely need to wear a brace afterward to keep the joint stable. In severe cases, surgery may be required to repair damage done to ligaments, blood vessels, or nerves. When there is damage to the blood vessels, surgery may be required immediately.
Regardless of the treatment you need, you will likely need rehabilitation like physical therapy after a knee dislocation.
At AICA Orthopedics, our doctors work closely with physical therapists, pain management specialists, and others to create a treatment program that is both safe and effective for car accident victims. If you have suffered a knee injury from a car accident, our Atlanta offices offer personalized treatment designed to help you recover quickly and fully. Call us today for your first consultation!