There are two main types of knee joint injury; acute and chronic. Acute injuries occur in an instant (e.g. bone fracture) and chronic injuries (e.g. stress fractures and tendinitis) occur over a period of time and are usually classified as misuse injuries. Here we are mainly addressing acute injuries. They may vary in severity from mild to moderate and severe.
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Sprains (an injury to ligaments that connect bone to bone) and strains (an injury to tendons that connect bone to muscle) may also be classified as first degree (least severe with mild stretching) to second degree and third degree (most severe with complete rupture). Hence, for example, the expression knee strain is often used when in fact it is a knee sprain because it really involves ligament damage.
The knee is stabilised and supported by four main ligaments. The medial collateral ligament (mcl) spans the medial side (inside) of each knee and prevents the knee joint opening up when a force is applied to the outside of the knee (e.g. due to a football tackle). At the centre of the knee joint are two ligaments that form a cross or cruciate ligament arrangement.