Knee Injuries From Falling: 6 Things to Know

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • Knee injuries from falling can happen to anyone, whether climbing a ladder or getting out of the shower. Contributing factors include unsafe terrain, the person’s age, and the level of physical activity involved.
  • Fall-induced knee injuries vary in severity. Common diagnoses are sprains, strains, fractures, dislocations, and cartilage injuries.
  • Frequently seen symptoms for fall-based knee injuries include pain, swelling, bruising, tenderness, instability, inability to bear weight, and a loss of motion.
  • Treatment methods vary per knee injury instance; sometimes, resting, icing, compressing, and elevating your knee is enough; other times, you may need rehabilitation or surgical intervention.

Understanding Knee Injuries From Falling

Fall-incited knee injuries can happen to anyone through various activities, including playing a sport, ascending stairs, or many other everyday events. It is essential to know what factors can contribute to knee-threatening falls and what types of injuries those falls could cause. 

If you are able to look out for signs and symptoms, such as tenderness and swelling, you can increase your chances for early detection. This gives you more time to work through a tailored treatment plan with a qualified joint specialist that helps you retain as much functionality and pain relief as possible.

Relief options range from medicine and rest to long-term rehabilitation and surgery. Each knee injury from falling is unique and may require individualized attention. Still, understanding how to prevent or treat different knee injuries from falling can help you achieve as much movement-related comfortability as possible.

1. Common Causes of Knee Injuries From Falling

Various injuries can result from almost any type of fall, but some factors contribute to a higher likelihood of triggering knee trauma. The following circumstances can increase your risk of acquiring a knee injury.

Slippery Surfaces

Slick surfaces can easily cause someone to fall and injure their knee because they inhibit traction. Be careful while traveling on wet, smooth, or oily surfaces to avoid knee damage. Wintery conditions increase the frequency of this type of accident. A 2015 study reflected that roughly 97% of weather-related injuries involve slipping atop ice or snow.

Uneven Terrain

Bumpy, irregular surfaces can spark footing and torque issues, resulting in a painful, knee-affecting tumble. A 2006 study of middle-aged or older adults showed that 73% of outdoor falls were due to environmental factors, such as uneven surfaces like raised sidewalks or obstructions like rocks or branches. If you hike or walk in uneven areas, look out for protrusions and abrupt changes in elevation to avoid damaging your knee.

Sports & Physical Activities

Many sports and physical activities include intense, high-impact movements like running and jumping that can lead to knee-damaging falls. During a 2010 study with over 10,000 adult participants, 54% reported falling during sports or exercise within a year from the data collection date.

Contact sports like football or basketball can further increase your risk of developing a fall-induced knee injury because of their frequency of pushing and collision. If you engage in similar activities, wear proper protective gear and avoid maneuvers that make you feel unsteady—this can help preserve your knee health.


The older we get, the harder it is to preserve our balance and other gross motor skills, making it easier for us to fall and hurt our knees. A 2014 mobility report explained that over 28% of surveyed adults who were 65 years old or older experienced a significant fall within the preceding 12 months. As you age, you should fall-proof your home, take care of your body, and avoid high-intensity activities to avoid damaging one of your knees.

Some factors that increase your risk of fall-incited knee injuries are unavoidable, like aging. However, you can be intentional with your movements and avoid some activities and settings that can put you at an even higher risk of getting one of the several types of knee injuries from falling.

2. Types of Knee Injuries

Before you explore how to treat a knee injury from falling, you should learn about the different types of common knee injuries because each case may require a unique treatment plan. The following classes of knee injuries are often seen after fall-related incidents.

Sprains, Strains, and Tears

Knee sprains occur when your knee joint’s bands of rope-like connective tissues, known as ligaments, stretch too far or tear. Similarly, a knee strain happens when muscle fibers or tendons, such as the patellar or quadriceps tendon, are pulled or torn. These types of knee injuries are prevalent among athletes. Depending on the severity and location of the strain or sprain, you may experience success from at-home treatments like icing and compression; however, you should still have a qualified healthcare professional diagnose your injury.

What Knee Ligaments Can Be Sprained?

It is most common to sprain collateral ligaments, such as the medial collateral ligament (MCL) along the inside edge of the knee or the lateral collateral ligament (LCL) along the outside edge of the knee. Still, sprains can also happen to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) at the front of your knee and the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) at the back of your knee.

Bone Injuries

In addition to the soft tissue injuries mentioned above, sometimes the knee’s round sesamoid bone, known as the patella or kneecap, can be damaged or misplaced. The following types of bone injuries can develop after a fall.


A knee fracture results from a break in the kneecap and can sometimes be accompanied by additional injuries to knee tendons or ligaments. The severity of a knee fracture can vary, ranging from a subtle hair-thin crack to a skin-protruding open fracture. Treatment plans for this injury can involve resting and splinting or knee replacement surgery.


Another bone-centered injury that can occur is a kneecap dislocation. Dislocation results from the patella bone sliding out of place, usually toward the outside of the leg. This particular injury can happen when someone abruptly moves in a direction that puts their kneecap under sudden stress.

This injury is very prominent in sports that require pivoting, such as basketball, football, or tennis. If it happens to you, keeping your leg straight and splinted is best until a qualified medical professional can relocate the bone and expertly stabilize it to heal over the next few weeks.

Cartilage Injuries

Knee cartilage injuries affect the connective tissue that cushions the shinbone, thighbone, and kneecap. Knees have two types of cartilage: articular cartilage, which is a smooth tissue found behind the kneecap and at the ends of other knee bones to reduce friction, and meniscus cartilage, which is a strong, opposable tissue in between the thigh and shin bone. This cartilage can get damaged from sudden twists and turns, like during a fall when part of someone’s leg gets stuck. 

Although knee injuries can take many forms and result from dissimilar accidents, comparable signs and symptoms can manifest, encouraging you to visit a trained joint specialist for more insight.

3. Knee Injury Signs and Symptoms

After falling, you must pay attention to your body and recognize the signs and symptoms of a knee injury. Early detection will allow you to make informed decisions and start a treatment plan sooner, increasing your chances of retaining mobility and comfort in your knee joint. Examples of common knee injury symptoms are:

  • Pain and Tenderness
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness
  • Bruising
  • Unusual redness or warmth
  • Inability to bear weight
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Instability
  • Popping or crunching noises

If you notice any of the above symptoms, consult a trusted healthcare provider, get examined, and have your injury professionally diagnosed. Once you know what is causing your knee pain or other symptoms, you and a joint specialist can create a unique treatment plan that fits your needs.

Overcome Joint Pain with JRCS

Our team of board-certified surgeons and compassionate professionals will create a personalized treatment plan to help you manage joint pain and get back to your daily routine.

4. Knee Injury Treatment Options

Thankfully, there are several ways to treat knee pain following a fall-induced injury. You can start by attempting a sequence of rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) to see if that reduces swelling and returns comfort to your knee joint. You can also take over-the-counter pain medication for short-term relief. However, if the level of pain is too high or if symptoms persist after trying RICE for a few days, you should schedule an appointment with a joint specialist to minimize further damage and explore other treatment options.

Non-Surgical Treatments

Before deciding on surgery, your joint specialist may suggest alternative techniques, such as professional-led physical therapy or at-home rehabilitation exercises. Depending on the severity of their injury, patients can benefit from short-term solutions like knee injections or long-term lifestyle changes like losing weight. Cutting-edge technology like pulsed electromagnetic field (PEMF) therapy has also been able to reduce pain and inflammation for some people with joint complications.

Surgical Intervention

Although the above methods may be helpful for some people, severe situations can warrant surgical intervention. Examples of signs that you may need surgery are:

  • Your knee always seems swollen and feels stiff.
  • Even when you’re relaxing and sitting down, your knee still hurts.
  • Your knee hurts more than it used to, and injections or medicine aren’t working as well.
  • You want to be more active, but your knee is getting in the way.

Thankfully, experienced medical professionals like The Joint Replacement Center of Scottsdale team can perform minimally invasive knee surgery using precise, accurate robotic technology like Mako SmartRobotics. This approach can facilitate a quicker healing process, making returning to some of the activities you love easier.

5. Knee Injury Recovery & Rehabilitation

Prioritizing recovery and therapy following a knee injury is essential for regaining strength and functionality. Some helpful tips for facilitating recovery are:

  • Follow medical advice – Comply closely with your physician’s treatment plan. Depending on the extent of the injury, this may involve medication, physical therapy, or surgery.
  • Gradually return to activities – After receiving the all-clear from your doctor, gradually resume sports and physical activity. To prevent re-injury, begin with low-impact workouts and progressively increase the time and intensity.
  • Perform rehabilitation exercises and stretches – Some exercises or stretches can strengthen the muscles surrounding your knee, increasing your range of motion, such as leg lifts, hamstring curls, calf raises, and quad sets.
  • Use supportive gear – Consider using knee braces or compression sleeves to give your injured knee more stability and support when moving around.
  • Preserve a Healthy Lifestyle – Eat a nutrient-rich, well-balanced diet to aid in healing, and keep your weight in check to lessen the strain on the knee joint. For the best recovery, get enough sleep and stay hydrated.

The above methods can help you expedite your recovery and regain the most motion possible after receiving a knee injury from falling. However, it is ideal to avoid the injury altogether by taking preventative measures now.

6. How To Prevent Knee Injuries From Falling

Understanding how to prevent fall-induced knee injuries can keep you safe and avoid potentially expensive medical interventions. Examples of helpful preventive measures are:

  • Prioritize good balance and posture.
  • Strengthen leg muscles through low-impact exercises.
  • Wear appropriate footwear with good traction, especially during sports.
  • Use support like handrails when traveling on stairs or uneven surfaces.
  • Carefully remove hazards from walking surfaces.

Implementing these preventative measures into your daily life can significantly reduce your chances of falling and hurting your knee.

Don’t Let Your Knee Injury Go Untreated

Regarding fall-induced knee problems, it is essential to know about contributing factors, types of injuries, telltale symptoms, treatment options, recovery strategies, and how to prevent those injuries altogether.

The well-educated joint specialists at The Joint Replacement Center of Scottsdale can diagnose and treat knee injuries. We offer top-of-the-line alternative therapies like ARPwave and PEMF, which can reduce joint pain for mild to moderate knee injuries. For severe cases, we provide total knee replacement, partial knee replacement, and total knee replacement revision surgery to patients not experiencing relief from other methods. 

Schedule a consultation to get help developing an individualized plan to treat your knee injury from falling or other causes effectively.