We’ve all experienced an injury at some point in our lives. Whether it was a ‘tweak’ to the knee while running on uneven ground, or a twist of an ankle while stepping off a curb. Perhaps you were able to walk it off or brushed off the slight limp in your gait as a minor inconvenience to your daily activities. When does that tweak become something more serious requiring some form of medical intervention? Below are four key indications your injury needs advice from a medical professional.
1. Swelling – if your injury is followed by a rapid onset of diffuse swelling (within hours) this is a sign you may have a more serious injury. Significant ankle sprains, anterior cruciate ligament tears (ACL), kneecap dislocations, and fractures all cause rapid swelling inside the joint. If your ankle looks like you have a baseball in your sock, or you have lost all sight of your kneecap – get yourself to a medical professional for an injury assessment.
2. Inability to Weight Bear - if you are unable to bear weight immediately after your injury, or cannot walk more than 4 steps, this could point to a significant bone injury (fracture). This is an indication in the Ottawa Knee & Ankle Rules that you require an x-ray to rule out a fracture.
3. Instability – if your injury was accompanied by a buckling sensation (plant and pivot movement or landing on uneven ground) or your ankle or knee buckles or gives way with simple movements after an injury, you may have extensive ligament damage. ACL tears are known to cause instability with twisting and pivoting movements, and severe ankle sprains can cause instability just from walking on a slightly uneven surface, such as gravel.
4. Loss of Function – if after your injury you are unable to perform basic movements of the affected joint you may have suffered a large tendon tear. For example, the inability to lift your leg straight off the ground from a sitting position could indicate a tear to your quadriceps tendon, whereas the inability to do a standing heel/calf raise could indicate an Achilles tendon rupture.
You may be wondering why pain is not on this list? Pain is an extremely subjective symptom that is not necessarily a valid indication of the severity of an injury. For example a mild or grade I medial collateral ligament (MCL) sprain is notorious for causing considerable pain and stiffness, yet is an injury that heals well and poses no long-term effects on the health of the knee joint. However, an ACL tear can cause little to no pain, yet can have a significant impact on the long-term stability and health of the knee joint if not diagnosed.
If you are in doubt of whether your injury is severe or not, seek the advice from a qualified medical professional.
Resources in Calgary, Alberta: Along with the numerous urgent care facilities, sport medicine clinics, physiotherapy & athletic therapy clinics, the following are two specialized clinics offered in Calgary:
The Acute Knee Injury Clinic. This is a free, self-referral clinic for those that have suffered from a traumatic acute knee injury within the past 6 weeks.
The Running Injury Clinic. This is a clinic that offers running injury assessments, treatment, and injury prevention techniques.
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