How do I know if my knee injury is serious?

Written by: Mr Atif Malik
Edited by: Carlota Pano

As the largest joint in our body, the knee is vulnerable to many different types of injuries caused by physical stress, trauma or forceful movement.


Here, Mr Atif Malik, highly skilled consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon, provides an expert insight into knee injuries, including causes, symptoms and management.



What is the most common knee injury in sports?


The most common knee injuries that I see in my practice are knee sprains, which I see very often in the weekend warrior as well as in the elite athlete.


These can range from very minor sprains, which resolve within a week or two with appropriate advice, exercise and physiotherapy, to much more serious sprains with ligament or cartilage injury, and very occasionally, bone injury as well.


What causes knee injuries in athletes?


What I see the most in my practice are people that do not prepare for the activity that they are about to complete. By this, I mean warming up and warming down insufficiently, which can cause muscle injuries, as well as ligament and soft tissue sprains.


Often, just treating knee injuries with physiotherapy, rest, ice, compression stockings or elevation, can make a world of difference.


How do I know if my knee injury is serious?


Several factors indicate a more serious knee injury, including:

  • the non-resolution of symptoms
  • the inability to put on weight on the knee
  • the inability to move the knee
  • symptoms of clicking or locking
  • a feeling of instability
  • a feeling of the knee giving way


These are all symptoms that should prompt people to seek specialist advice.


Can knee injuries heal on their own?


Very minor knee sprains often do not require any treatment besides a RICE (rest, ice, compression stocking and elevation) regimen and anti-inflammatory medication.


Other injuries, however, such as those with symptoms of clicking or locking and the feeling of the knee giving way in addition to the inability to put on weight on the knee and the inability to move the knee, are more worrying and do indicate a more serious knee injury.


What is the best exercise for knee pain?


This depends on the type of knee injury that a patient is reporting, because different knee injuries respond better to different types of exercises.


For example, anterior knee pain, which may be apparent when going up and down the stairs or up and down inclines, often comes from injuries to the under service of the kneecap. This type of knee pain requires a specific exercise and rehabilitation protocol.


An ACL injury, on the other hand, causes symptoms of instability. Thus, the set of exercises and the rehabilitation programme for this injury will be completely different.


I think the important thing is to try and treat the patient as an individual, and to try and tailor the rehabilitation program according to their particular injury and their particular functional level.



Mr Atif Alik is a skilled consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon with more than 20 years of experience.

If you require expert treatment and management for a knee injury, do not hesitate to book an appointment with Mr Malik via his Top Doctors profile today.

By Mr Atif Malik
Orthopaedic surgery

Mr Atif Malik is an extensively trained and exceptionally skilled consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon with a subspecialist focus in hip, knee and sports injuries.

Throughout his career, Mr Malik has gained leading expertise and precision in numerous procedures, including hip replacement, knee replacement, knee arthroscopy, meniscus surgery and cruciate ligament surgery.

He is also an expert in the treatment of sports injuries. He was appointed as a sports doctor for the wrestling events at the Commonwealth Games and was also the resident sports doctor (including being pitch-side) for the football games at Old Trafford during the 2012 Olympics. Additionally, he was the London Skolars Rugby League Club doctor until 2016.

After his undergraduate training at the University of Manchester Medical School, he worked with the orthopaedic surgeon of the Manchester United Football Club, which is when his interest in trauma, orthopaedics and sports injuries grew further. Throughout his subspecialist training, he was awarded several prestigious and competitive training fellowships, including the ESSKA (European Society for Sports Traumatology, Knee Surgery and Arthroscopy) Fellowship in 2014, which provided him with the opportunity to travel to centres of excellence in Innsbruck, Vienna, Paris, Lyon, Rome, Genoa, Madrid and Lisbon to advance his knowledge and skill.

Not only does Mr Malik provide highly professional and personalised care, but he also contributes to his field through research. To date, he has more than 30 publications in international journals and has been invited as a guest editor for special editions of several journals. What's more, he has been invited to write numerous book chapters with a focus on orthopaedics and sports injuries.

You can find more information on Mr Maliks instagram page .

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