Knee Sprain



A knee sprain is when a force pushes the bones of the knee apart. If the force is strong enough, the ligament comes apart. This can happen from things like:

  • Forced twisting of the knee
  • A sudden change in direction
  • A misstep that causes a sudden strain at a joint
  • An impact with an object or another person

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:

  • Playing sports, such as basketball, football, skiing, and gymnastics
  • Poor coordination
  • Poor balance
  • Muscle weakness
  • Poor flexibility
  • Loose joints



Problems may be:

  • Pain and tenderness, especially putting weight on the knee
  • Swelling, warmth, or bruising around the knee
  • Problems moving the knee
  • A popping sound


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You will also be asked how the injury happened. A physical exam will be done. It will focus on the knee.

It can be hard to tell a sprain from a fracture or dislocation. Pictures may be taken. This can be done with:

  • X-rays
  • MRI scan

The doctor may need to view the inside of the knee. This can be done with a minimally invasive procedure called an arthroscopy.

Sprain of Knee
Sprained ligament knee
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Treatment will depend on the joint and how severe the injury is. The goal of treatment is to ease pain and improve movement. Choices are:

  • Supportive care, such as rest, ice, a compression bandage, and raising the knee to ease pain and swelling
  • Medicine, such as over the counter pain relievers
  • Supportive devices, such as a brace or crutches
  • Physical therapy to improve strength, flexibility, and range of motion

Some people may need surgery to repair a ligament that is torn.


Most sprains are due to accidents. They cannot always be prevented. The risk may be lowered by:

  • Using the right safety gear and techniques when playing sports
  • Stretching and strengthening the ligaments that support the knee

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.