What are Soft Tissue Knee Injuries and How to Manage them?

The musculoskeletal system of our knees is nothing without the muscles, ligaments and tendons that offers extraordinary support to the bones and promotes smooth movement. However, sometimes due to some unexpected situations such as trauma, injury or overuse of joints the tissues tend to overstretch or tear thereby making them incapable of performing their functions properly. This incapability of knee joints is called as soft tissue knee injury.

Did you know? Top Orthopedician says that “The incidences of soft tissue knee injuries are so high that, every year, they account for more than 1 million emergency room visits and nearly 1.9 million cases of outpatient treatment”.

More than 60% of the cases of soft tissue knee injuries occur due to sports, with the highest rate for basketball, football and soccer players. But, a soft tissue knee injury can also happen in people while exercising or performing daily activities.

What are the causes of Soft Tissue Knee Injury?

The primary causes of soft tissue knee injuries come under two categories:

  1. Overuse injuries – Injuries due to repeated vigorous activities that do not give soft tissues sufficient time to heal properly.
  2. Acute injuries – These injuries are a result of sudden trauma, such as a fall or blow to the knee.

What are types of soft tissue knee injury?

Based on the degree of stretching and tearing of knee tissues and the level of impairment experienced by a person, there are three grades of strain or sprain:

  • Grade 1 Mild Injury:  Severe stretching of the ligaments with minimal tenderness, swelling and minor instability.
  • Grade 2 Moderate Injury: Partial tearing of ligaments with moderate tenderness, minor instability and moderately incapacitating.
  • Grade 3 Severe Injury: Complete tear of ligaments with swelling that ranges from moderate to severe, discomfort with movement, severe instability and disabling.

In addition to strains and sprains, soft tissue knee injuries include tendinitis, bursitis, Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) tears.

How to treat Soft tissue knee Injury?

There are primarily three stages of treatment:

  • Stage 1: Within the first 24-72 hours, it is essential to protect the injured area through accurate diagnosis and accompanied with the PRICE regime (Protect, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). If possible, a gentle pain-free movement would be a way relieve pain.
  • Stage 2: The treatment focuses on reducing stiffness swelling, and to regain normal movement by using braces or cast.
  • Stage 3: The core focus of this treatment is to regain normal functioning and returning to regular activities through reconstructive surgery depending on the severity of the injury caused to the soft knee tissues.


Grade 1 injury will typically take 1 to 2 weeks to heal, while grade 2  injury often requires a period of 3 to 4 weeks and for grade 3 injury, the recovery process depends on various factors like person’s age, underlying health condition, as well as the time of intervention.

Don’ts for Soft Tissue knee injury:

  • In the first 48-72 hours, it is necessary to avoid the following:
  • Applying heat, as it progresses blood flow and swelling.
  • Consumption of alcohol, as it increases blood flow, swelling and will slow down the healing process.
  • Don’t Massage, as this increases blood flow, swelling and can further damage the tissues.
  • Avoid exercising vigorously or running as it may worsen the injury which increases pain, swelling and bleeding.

As with every other injury, consulting a qualified orthopaedic doctor is key to proper treatment, sooner recovery and avoiding long-term effects of soft tissues knee injuries.

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