The knee is one of the most complex joints in the body, which makes it susceptible to many types of injuries. The knee joint is comprised of four bones:
- the thigh bone or femur
- the shin bone or tibia
- the lower leg bone or fibula
- kneecap or patella
Each of these bones can be broken. The patella is the most commonly bone broken in the knee. Often a break of the patella is accompanied by a broken femur and tibia.
What is a knee fracture?
It is either a break or a crack in the bone. For example, shin splints are hairline cracks in the tibia.
What causes a knee fracture?
Traumatic knee fractures result from an auto accident, falls, sports injuries and direct hits to the knee. Sometimes a fracture can be the result of osteoporosis, an age-related condition.
Types of knee fractures
Common knee fractures are patella fractures, and fractures of the upper portion of the tibia that makes up part of the knee joint. Fractures of the patella and upper tibia affect the ability of the knee to bear weight and contributes to loss of knee mobility and stability. A traumatic break increases the risk of post-traumatic osteoarthritis.
- Patella Fractures – Because of the location of the patella, in front of the knee, it is vulnerable to injury. A patella fracture results from a fall directly on the knee or an auto accident where the knee hits the dashboard. But it can also be fractured by a sudden contraction of the quadriceps muscle which pulls it apart.
A patella fracture is serious because it can make walking and bending the knee impossible. Symptoms include bruising, pain and swelling, the inability to the straighten the knee or raise the lower leg. An x-ray will reveal the fracture and the alignment of the bones.
- Tibial plateau fractures – Upper tibia fractures, also called tibial plateau fractures, are complex, serious joint injuries commonly found in athletes who play high-impact sports. The tibial plateau is a critical area of the knee that allows for weight-bearing, and a serious fracture will cause significant pain when attempting to put weight on the knee, limits range of motion and affects knee alignment and stability.
Tibial plateau fractures affect young adults who are active and in the middle of their working lives. In older adults with osteoporosis only a low energy injury can break the tibial plateau.
These fractures usually also involve damage to the surface cartilage of the knee joint and other soft tissue complications. Soft tissue damage can lead to serious problems.
These fractures can have a profound effect on a person’s professional and personal life. The most severe tibial plateau fracture usually requires surgery. Treat will depend on the severity of the fracture and whether and what other injuries are present.
Complications can include post-traumatic arthritis, joint stiffness, knee instability, muscle weakness and chronic pain. Although the bones may heal normally, this type of injury can damage the articular cartilage that covers the ends of the bones. This can lead to pain and stiffness.
Orthopedic Associates of Northern California’s office is located in Chico, CA. Our board-certified orthopedic surgeons will provide you with compassionate, patient-centered care based on your needs. The team at Orthopedic Associates of Northern California is deeply committed to your health and well-being. Contact us to get the correct diagnosis and learn about all your treatment options.