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Injuries: Knee - physiotherapy advice for managing soft tissue knee injuries

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This advice is intended for children who have already had their soft tissue knee injury assessed by a health professional, however it can also be used to help you treat minor injuries at home.

You should seek professional advice by contacting NHS 24 on 111 if:
  • your child is unable to take weight through their injured leg
  • has significant swelling or
  • reduced movement at the knee

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What has happened?

Sprains and strains of the knee are common injuries particularly in active children.

They can happen if the muscles and, or ligaments get stretched, if the muscles have been overused or if there is swelling in the joint after an injury.

You may be more prone to this happening if you have recently grown.

What to expect?

After an injury your child can expect to feel pain and see swelling around the joint, in the coming days bruising may also develop.

Due to the pain and swelling it may be difficult for your child to take weight through that leg, bend or straighten the knee to start with but this should ease off within a few days.

If we have given your child a splint to wear they should try to use it only when absolutely needed and take if off regularly throughout the day.

If we have given your child crutches try to use them only when needed, they can try just using one before trying without any if they find that easier.

It is expected that your child will be able to walk normally within 1 week.

Normal walking means that your heel touches the ground first and you roll off of your toes before you lift the foot from the floor.

Sometimes it can take a little longer for swelling and bruising to settle, this is normal.

What should I do?

In the first 48-72 hours after their injury your child should:

Rest – Avoid any running or jumping activities, they should continue to walk as able to

Ice – apply an ice pack (or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a tea towel) to the injury for up to 20 minutes up to every hour

Elevate – keep the raised on a pillow as much as possible

Painkillers – use painkillers as advised by a pharmacist or doctor to manage the pain

Gentle movementClick here for exercises to do. The exercise list is in 3 stages and you should progress as instructed on the sheet

When to get further help

If your child has not already been seen by a health professional:

You should seek professional advice by contacting NHS24 on 111 if:

  • your child is unable to take weight through their injured leg
  • has significant swelling or
  • reduced movement at the knee

If your child has already been assessed by physiotherapy:

Please contact us again if:

  • Your child is unable to take weight through the affected leg after 48 hours

  • Your child has had more than one injury to the same knee in the past few months

Telephone: 0141 452 4650
Editorial Information

Last reviewed: 15 September 2021

Next review: 15 September 2024

Author(s): Rachel Simpson, Kate MacNeil

Approved By: Paediatric Physiotherapy, RHC