Knee sprain

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A knee sprain involves damage to any of the 4 ligaments that provide support to the knee joint. A sprain can affect one or more knee ligaments.

  • Medial ligament sprain – triggers pain on the interior of the knee and usually due to impact on the exterior of the knee
  • Lateral ligament sprain – causes pain on the outside of the joint and often due to impact on the interior of the knee
  • Anterior cruciate ligament sprain – due to twisting forces or impact
  • Posterior cruciate ligament sprain – occurs from movement that forces the knee backwards in the wrong direction
    Knee sprain
    The initial phase includes rest, application of ice, elevation and compression to minimize the pain, swelling and bruising.

The ligament sprains are categorized as grade 1-3 depending on the severity of the injury and extent of damage.

  • Grade 1 – involves a minor tear where 10% of the fibers are torn
  • Grade 2 – the injury is more severe and 10-90% of the fibers are damaged
  • Grade 3 – involves full rupture of the ligament

Most cases of knee sprains occur during forceful knee movement, especially twisting or sideways motion that overly stretch the ligament. A knee sprain is likely to occur in contact sports such as rugby and football.


  • Immediate knee pain and swelling
  • Intense pain that is localized
  • Difficulty moving the joint

Management for a knee sprain

The management for a knee sprain is the same for grade 1 and 2 injuries but severe cases might take a longer time. For grade 3 injuries, it is difficult to manage and might require surgery, especially if there are other injuries involved.

Stage 1

The initial phase includes rest, application of ice, elevation and compression to minimize the pain, swelling and bruising. If needed, crutches should be used to allow the joint to rest and minimize weight on the knee until free from pain.

Anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen can be given to reduce the pain. Exercises for mobility can be started once the pain allows which involves bending of the knee if it is comfortable.

Stage 2

Mobility exercises should be continued and proceed to full weight bearing if possible. A physical therapist might utilize techniques such as massage or ultrasound to allow the ligament to heal. Strengthening exercises are also recommended to avoid loss of muscle mass.

Stage 3

Full weight bearing is usually possible at this phase. It is recommended to increase the strengthening exercises which should include squats and lunges. The balance exercises involving the use of a wobble board are also recommended.

More Information / Disclaimer

The information posted on this page on a knee sprain is for learning purposes only. Learn to recognize and manage knee injuries by taking a standard first aid course with Victoria First Aid.

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