Automobile accidents and collisions can cause knee and ankle injuries in various ways. Automobile crashes are considered high-energy collisions versus slip and fall traumas which are generally low-energy. However, a 30mph or under-collision can have serious and detrimental effects on the knees and ankles. The sudden forces can cause the knees to collide with the dashboard or push the feet and legs into the body, generating intense pressure and compressing the bones, muscles, and ligaments damaging soft tissues and bone structures from the impact. The Injury Medical Chiropractic and Functional Medicine Clinic Team can rehabilitate, realign, strengthen, and restore function to individuals with minor to severe auto collision injuries.
Table of Contents
Knee and Ankle Injuries
Musculoskeletal motor vehicle crash/collision injuries affect the body’s movement. The impact can pull, tear, crush, and smash bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, discs, and nerves. These injuries restrict the range of motion and can cause pain and sensation symptoms. The National Accident Sampling System reports 33% of injuries sustained during vehicle collisions are to the lower extremities.
- Despite the knees and ankles having soft tissues that absorb and distribute the energy’s impact, the forces from the collision often happen instantly and unexpectedly, causing the individual to tense up, which overwhelms the structures.
- Even panic stepping on the brake pedal can cause injury to the ankle and foot.
- A passenger’s reflex of trying to resist forces can experience foot, ankle, and knee injuries from bracing off the vehicle’s floorboard.
- Automobile collisions can cause strains, sprains, fractures, and dislocations.
Torn, Strained, or Sprained Knee
- If the foot becomes planted on the floorboard while the body continues to move forward or sideways, the force can travel into the knee, causing twisting or shearing.
- Depending on the injury type, the impact strength can damage different ligaments.
- The ligaments resist forces that push the knee inwards/medially and outwards/laterally and slightly resist rotational forces.
- When any of these ligaments are damaged, swelling, pain, and limited ranges of motion can result.
- Putting weight on the affected leg can be difficult.
- In some cases, the ligaments tear completely, necessitating surgical repair.
- Once the individual can engage in mild activity, they can begin a rehabilitation program to restore function.
- Recovery times vary based on the location and severity of the injury.
Fractured Knee or Ankle
- When a fracture occurs in a joint, like the knees or ankles, surgical procedures may be necessary to repair the broken bone/s.
- Broken bones can result in simultaneous damage and/or inflammation of the connective tissues that can cause the muscles to contract/tighten or atrophy during the recovery and healing phases.
- Joints and bones are kept healthy with moderate movement and weight-bearing.
- Fractures require immobilization of the affected area.
- A physical therapy rehabilitation program can begin when the brace or cast comes off.
- Targeted exercises and resistance will strengthen and stretch the joint to improve flexibility and promote healing through improved circulation.
- The meniscus is a C-shaped area of cartilage that rests between the thigh and shin bones.
- It acts as a shock absorber.
- The meniscus can become torn, resulting in pain, stiffness, and loss of motion.
- This injury can heal independently with the right rest and therapeutic exercises.
- A chiropractic auto collision specialist can diagnose the severity of the tear and provide the recommendations needed to rehabilitate and strengthen the knee.
- If the tear is severe enough, surgery may be required.
Strained or Sprained Ankle
- Strained tendons and sprained ligaments can result from the ankle being subject to tremendous force.
- Strains and sprains vary in severity.
- Both indicate that the connective tissue has been damaged or stretched beyond normal limits.
- They can present with pain, inflammation, and problems moving the affected area.
- With proper medical attention and rehabilitation, recovery is possible.
Torn Achilles Tendon
- The Achilles tendon connects the calf muscle to the heel and is necessary for walking, running, physical activity, and bearing weight.
- If the tendon gets torn, surgery will be required to reattach the muscle and tendon.
- After recovery, the individual can begin physical therapy to work the tendon and muscle, slowly building strength and range of motion.
- It is critical to do this with the supervision of an expert in musculoskeletal rehabilitation to avoid re-injury or developing new injuries.
Any musculoskeletal motor vehicle injuries can result in intense pain that worsens with activity, inflammation, swelling, redness, and/or heat in the affected area. This is why correctly diagnosing the injury is essential if the condition is to be properly and thoroughly treated. A physical examination will vary based on the individual’s state and can include:
- Strength assessment
- Range of motion
- Other variables to determine the underlying issues.
- Diagnostic imaging such as X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans can help identify and clarify injuries’ extent, nature, and location and rule out problems.
A qualified healthcare professional will combine the data with medical history to develop an accurate diagnosis. Our ability to effectively treat accident individuals is based on applying clinical expertise in musculoskeletal diagnosis and care. Our medical team takes a practical approach to help individuals quickly heal from musculoskeletal injuries using the latest treatments possible. When you meet with one of our professionals, you will feel relaxed and confident that you have come to the right place.
From Injury To Recovery
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Gane, Elise M et al. “The impact of musculoskeletal injuries sustained in road traffic crashes on work-related outcomes: a protocol for a systematic review.” Systematic reviews vol. 7,1 202. 20 Nov. 2018, doi:10.1186/s13643-018-0869-4
Hardin, E C et al. “Foot and ankle forces during an automobile collision: the influence of muscles.” Journal of biomechanics vol. 37,5 (2004): 637-44. doi:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2003.09.030
Li, Wen-Wei, and Cheng-Chang Lu. “Knee deformity following a motor vehicle accident.” Emergency medicine journal: EMJ vol. 38,6 (2021): 449-473. doi:10.1136/emermed-2020-210054
M, Asgari, and Keyvanian Sh S. “Crash Injury Analysis of Knee Joint Considering Pedestrian Safety.” Journal of biomedical physics & Engineering vol. 9,5 569-578. 1 Oct. 2019, doi:10.31661/jbpe.v0i0.424
Torry, Michael R et al. “Relationship of knee shear force and extensor moment on knee translations in females performing drop landings: a biplane fluoroscopy study.” Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon) vol. 26,10 (2011): 1019-24. doi:10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2011.06.010
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