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Knee Injuries Caused By Motorcycle Accidents

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According to a 2008 report, injuries of the lower extremities are the most commonly received injuries in motorcycle accidents. Of these, injuries of the knee and related structures are in the top three most commonly reported. Knee injuries can be painful at best and debilitating at worst. The knee is a weight-bearing structure of the leg and as such injuries that go untreated can cause problems years after the fact.


One of the most common knee injuries after a motorcycle accident is a bone fracture. Of these, 37% are of the tibia, or the shin bone. The flattened portion that comprises the lower portion of the knee is known as the tibial plateau. In normal knees it is easily able to bear weight. When fractured, the knee swells and the pain of bearing weight makes the act difficult or impossible. Additionally, the swelling may lead to compartment syndrome–the compression of blood vessels and nerves in the leg. Left untreated, compartment syndrome can lead to serious complications.

Much like the tibia has a flattened surface for the knee, the femur–the long bone of the thigh–has a similar surface called a condyle. Femoral condylar fractures account for 9% of motorcycle-related leg injuries. Like the tibial plateau, the femoral condyle is important in the process of bearing weight. Lateral condyle fractures–that is, a fracture of the outermost “bump” of the condyle–are common from impact injuries, such as hitting the road after taking a spill. Surgery is often needed to repair this injury.

Patellar fractures make up 18% of knee injuries after motorcycle accidents. The patella is the kneecap, the small bone embedded in the tendon of the knee that protects the softer structures inside of the joint. Besides the pain and swelling that can be expected from fractures, patellar fractures are often accompanied by torn tendons due to the nature of its location. Patellar fractures can be treated by physical therapy or surgery, depending on the severity of the fracture.


Dislocations of the knees are an additional 10% of injuries. In knee dislocation due to trauma, the kneecap “slips” out of its usual place and the joint deforms painfully. Normal motion becomes impossible due to both pain and the malformation of the joint. The kneecap may move from right to left in a manner known as “sloppy kneecap.” One should not attempt to reset the knee themselves. First, the knee should be straightened if possible or otherwise stabilized if not. A medical professional should be contacted for further treatment. Dislocation can be confirmed with X-rays or MRIs and the knee will often be placed in an immobilizing device in order to allow the joint to rest and recover from damage. Afterwards, physical therapy will be needed in order to strengthen and rebuild the joint. In extreme cases, surgery may be required.


A sprain occurs when a joint is twisted violently, causing the ligaments holding bone together to tear. Knee sprains occur in 6% of motorcycle accidents. The knee is held together by four important ligaments: the lateral collateral ligament, the medial collateral ligament, the posterior cruciate ligament, and the anterior cruciate ligament. The lateral and medial collateral ligaments hold the outsides of the joint together by stretching from the femur to the fibula and tibia, or shin bones. The posterior and anterior cruciate ligaments hold the inside of the knee together by doing the same from inside of the joint. A sprain tearing these ligaments causes pain and swelling, and may affect the ability to bear weight and walk. Depending on the severity of the pain, X-rays or MRIs may be needed. In most cases, the RICE method–Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation–is enough to treat a sprain. Occasionally a brace or crutches and physical therapy may be needed.

Ligament Tear

When a sprain goes too far and rips the ligaments, a tear occurs. Sports fans may be familiar with the term “ACL tear,” which is a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the knee. 18% of leg injuries in motorcycle accidents can cause the same type of injury. When a tear occurs, a popping sound might be heard or the sensation of popping felt in the knee. As with most knee injuries, pain and swelling will occur and weight bearing will be difficult. In severe cases, nerves may be torn as well and pain signals may be unable to get through, causing an absence of pain. If a ligament tear is suspected, medical help should be sought out. A knee brace immobilizing the joint will be needed in order to give the ligaments time to heal, and physical therapy will be needed afterwards.

Meniscus Tear

The interior ligaments of the knee joint attach to a two c-shaped pads of cartilage called the meniscus. These surfaces allows for smooth movement of the knee and the absorption of shock during movement. If the meniscus tears, as it does in 3% of motorcycle accidents involving leg injuries, this ability is impeded. Like ligament tears, a popping sensation may be felt when a meniscus tears. Pain and swelling may also take hours to develop. However, due to the nature of cartilage, an X-ray may not pick up the location and degree of damage. An MRI is the better choice of diagnostic test due to its ability to see into softer tissue. Cartilage also generally lacks the blood supply of bone or ligament, so healing time is often slow. Physical therapy and anti-inflammatory medications are the first choice of healing, though on occasion surgery may be needed when a more immediate result is called for.

Tendon Tear

The tendon that crosses the front of the knee and holds the kneecap is known as the patellar tendon, and direct injury to the front of the knee can cause it to rupture and tear. In 3% of motorcycle accidents involving knee injuries, this is exactly what happens. With this tendon torn, the knee is incapable of being straightened. The kneecap may move upwards due to the tearing, and a dent can be visible where the tear occurred. After imaging tests have been performed to assess the damage, the doctor can determine how the injury should be treated. For small or incomplete tears physical therapy and immobilization are best. For larger and complete tears, surgery is needed to reattach the tendon.

Getting Help

These injuries can be expensive and life-changing. If you need representation after an accident that has caused you to suffer any of these injuries after a motorcycle accident, call us at Doan Law Firm 24 hours a day. Our Houston motorcycle accident lawyer has been ranked number one in customer satisfaction, and there are no fees unless we win your case. Call us for a free consultation today, any time. Your health and peace of mind is worth it.

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