Common Knee Injuries in Soccer

What are the most common knee injuries that soccer players suffer: There are four ligaments in each knee, two cruciate ones at the front and back and collaterals on each side, with lesions occurring in any them if the knee is over-straightened. Soccer, which involves of course tackles and pushing and jostling for the ball is bound to result in a knee strain or injury unfortunately. Usually, as you known, some of the worst knee injuries are when a player is untouched and just steps wrong or lands on the foot awkwardly and twists their knee.

I can remember when Zlatan Ibrahimovic was playing for Manchester United and went up for a header and came down on his foot unbalanced and tore his ACL. Ibrahimovic jumps up and wins headers hundreds of times but for whatever reason this time just came down at a bad angle or was perhaps bumped by the defender and put him and his leg in a uncomfortable position.

The Most Common Knee Injuries in Soccer

Damage to the anterior (front) cruciate ligament is the most serious and although the success rate for surgery is high and the player can soon be walking, it can take five to 12 months before they are back in playing soccer and running again.

When it comes to knee injuries in soccer players, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries usually get all the hype. Since ACL injuries account for a recommended 9-12 months missed from sport, this is understandable. But while ACL injuries get all the attention, there is another knee ligament that is injured much more often than the ACL.

So, what is the most common knee ligament injury in soccer?

A strain or tear to the medial collateral ligament, or the MCL is not only the most common knee ligament injury, it is also the 4th most common injury overall in soccer players.

In fact, a team of about 25 players can expect 2 MCL injuries per season and the average time to return to sport is just over 3 weeks, but this will vary depending on the severity and amount of laxity present.

How do MCL injuries occur?

MCL injuries occur when a valgus stress is applied to the knee. Most MCL injuries (70%) are the result of a contact mechanism of injury including a collision, being tackled, and being blocked. The most common non-contact mechanism of injury is twisting or turning. Over half (60%) of MCL injuries are to the dominant leg, and 43% occur in the last 15 minutes of the 1st and 2nd halves.

Usually, an athlete with a medial knee injury will complain of localized tenderness and feelings of instability in the knee. There may or may not be swelling and/or bruising along the medial aspect of the knee. Knowing the anatomy of the structures of the medial knee is necessary for palpation, as presence of tenderness to palpation along a given structure is usually associated with injury to that structure.

The medial knee consists of many other structures besides just the MCL, and the MCL itself is made up of different fibers and divisions.

During the clinical assessment, we are going to perform objective tests that will help us assess the amount of laxity present in the knee and determine which structures might be injured.