Apex Sports Clinic

Taking Strides: A Comprehensive Guide to Managing Knee Injuries in Athletes

Knee injuries are among the most prevalent and debilitating conditions faced by athletes of all levels and across various sports. From sudden twists on the soccer field to the repetitive stress of long-distance running, the knee joint is highly susceptible to a range of injuries that affect the athlete’s performance, movement, quality of life, and overall well-being significantly. Whether it is a minor strain, a ligament tear or fractures, knee injuries interfere with the athlete’s active lifestyle and cause downtime. 

Sports Treatment 

Athletes require timely, effective, and personalized treatment and management plans, created by skilled orthopaedic/ sports surgeons, to make a quick recovery and prevent future injuries to the knee. At Apex Sports Clinic, a trusted clinic offering orthopaedic and sports treatment in Singapore, we have enabled countless athletes not only to recover completely from knee injuries but also enabled several athletes to reduce their risks of knee injuries through our comprehensive management plans. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the common types of knee injuries, their causes, symptoms, and treatment options. We will also provide a roadmap for managing knee injuries in athletes, covering prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation.

4 Common Types of Knee Injuries

ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Tear

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), located at the centre of the knee joint, is a ligament that connects the thighbone (femur) to the shinbone (tibia). It is a strong band of tissue that crosses the knee diagonally, providing stability to the joint. The rotational force of the knee in a non-contact situation often causes ACL injuries. 

An ACL tear, a common knee injury, often occurs during activities that involve sudden stops, direction changes, or direct blows to the knee. Athletes participating in sports such as soccer, basketball, and rugby are at higher risk. 


  • A popping sensation when the injury occurs

  • Severe pain 

  • Swelling 

  • Feeling of the knee easily giving way / loose (Instability)

  • Bearing weight (e.g. walking) on the affected leg is difficult

Other Ligament Tears

Though less common than ACL, other types of ligament tears such as Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL), Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), or Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) have a significant impact on an athlete’s performance and overall well-being. Overstretching of the ligaments, direct blows, and excessive force can cause ligament tears. 


  • Severe pain 

  • Swelling 

  • Feeling of the knee easily giving way/ loose (Instability)

  • Bearing weight (e.g. walking) on the affected leg is difficult

Meniscus Tear

The meniscus is a rubbery, C-shaped disc that cushions the knee joint and provides shock absorption between the shinbone (femur) and the thighbone (tibia). A meniscus tear can occur due to sudden twisting, forceful bending of the knee while bearing weight, or pivoting movements, most commonly while playing sports such as basketball and football. 


  • Pain

  • Swelling

  • Stiffness

  • Catching/ locking of the knee joint

  • Restricted range of motion 

  • Difficulty extending the knee fully

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

Patellofemoral pain syndrome, also known as runner’s knee, is an injury characterized by pain around the patella (kneecap) which is at the front of the knee. It is a result of knee overuse, abnormal movement of the kneecap, and the resultant inflammation of the region. Athletes who are required to squat, run up/ down hills, etc. for extended periods are at a higher risk of this injury. So, athletes who engage in running, cycling, jumping (basketball, volleyball, etc.) are at a higher risk of patellofemoral pain. 


  • Pain and tenderness below the kneecap during squatting, jumping, etc. 

  • Swelling 

  • Limited range of motion in the knee 

  • Inability to straighten or bend the knee fully 

Recognizing and Responding to Knee Injury

If a knee injury occurs, you must follow the RICE protocol as it helps reduce inflammation and pain. 

Rest: Rest the injured knee, avoiding activities that aggravate the pain.

Ice: Apply ice packs to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time, wrapped in a cloth to prevent skin irritation. Repeat several times a day.

Compression: Use an elastic bandage or compression bandage to provide gentle compression and reduce swelling of the knee. 

Elevation: Keeping the leg and the injured knee in an elevated position helps minimize swelling.

While RICE protocol will provide immediate relief, the athlete needs to seek medical attention if the pain, instability, or swelling does not improve within a day or two. The sports surgeon will diagnose your injury and its severity properly, recommending an appropriate treatment plan. 

How Do Sports Surgeons Treat Knee Injuries? 

Medication and Injections

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and pain medication may be prescribed to the athlete to alleviate pain and inflammation associated with knee injuries. In some cases, corticosteroid injections may be recommended to reduce inflammation and relieve symptoms, particularly for conditions like patellofemoral syndrome.

Bracing and Supportive Devices

Depending on the severity of the injury, athletes may benefit from wearing knee braces, casts, or other supportive devices to provide stability and reduce stress on the injured joint during physical activity. Custom-fitted braces are recommended for athletes after ACL reconstruction surgery or other knee procedures when they are returning to the sport. 

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy plays a crucial role in treating and rehabilitating knee injuries by improving strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Therapeutic exercises, manual techniques, and modalities such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation are often used. Physical therapy enables athletes to restore function, gain strength and flexibility, and reduce the risk of recurrence of knee injuries. 

Surgical Interventions 

In severe cases where non-surgical interventions aren’t possible or don’t work, surgical interventions are used by sports surgeons to treat knee injuries. 

After surgery, athletes should not rush their return to play before full recovery and rehabilitation. Returning too soon can increase the risk of re-injury and potentially worsen the initial injury. A physiotherapist will create a personalized rehabilitation plan that the athlete must follow to ensure they are fully fit to restart training and playing. Rehabilitation programs typically include a combination of strengthening exercises, balance and proprioception exercises, flexibility training, and gradual resumption of sport-specific movements.

Prevention Strategies for Knee Injuries

Athletes can reduce their risks of knee injuries by taking preventive steps. 

Strength Training

Athletes should concentrate on strengthening the muscles around the knee joint, including the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. This is important to improve stability, strength, and support in and around the knee joint. Incorporating exercises like squats, lunges, leg presses, and calf raises into regular training routines can significantly reduce the risk of knee injuries.

Proper Technique and Biomechanics

Athletes should master proper form and technique for their respective sports to minimize the risk of injury. Coaches, trainers, and physiotherapists should train and instruct athletes on how to perform movements safely, including landing, cutting, pivoting, and jumping while minimizing impact and stress on the knee. 

Warm-Up, Stretching, and Cool-Down

The importance of proper warm-up, stretching, and cool-down exercises cannot be stressed enough. Playing with tight, unstretched muscles causes imbalance and instability, increasing the risk of knee injuries. So, athletes and coaches should create and follow proper warm-up and stretching routines before exercise and physical activities, helping prepare the muscles, ligaments, and joints for the demands of the sport. Similarly, cooling down with stretching exercises, foam rolling, etc. after workouts/ training/ the game can promote muscle recovery and flexibility.

Gradual Progression and Periodization

Athletes, especially those coming back from an injury, should gradually increase the intensity, duration, and frequency of training sessions. This will help them prevent overuse injuries and allow adequate recovery time for the body. Following a structured training program with periodization principles and allowing rest days in the schedule can effectively improve performance while reducing the risk of injury.

Protective Gear

Wearing appropriate footwear with good arch support, knee braces (as and when recommended by a doctor), or other safety gear ensures better support and additional protection during physical activity.

Maintain Healthy Weight

Excess weight puts extra stress on the knee joints, increasing the likelihood of injuries. Maintaining a healthy weight and following proper nutritional guidelines reduces strain and the risk of injury.


Knee injuries pose significant challenges for athletes, regardless of their sport. Though there is no 100% guarantee that knee injuries can be fully prevented, it is possible to reduce the risks of knee injuries with proper management and preventative measures. Prevention and management of knee injuries require a multipronged approach that is personalized to the needs of the athlete by an experienced sports physician. 

If you are looking for personalized and effective knee injury management plans, Apex Sports Clinic is perfect for you. We are an orthopaedic clinic in singapore that is trusted by countless athletes who have benefited from our personalized treatment plans and injury prevention strategies to help them get back to their sport safely and confidently. 









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