So you just hurt you knee. Is your knee broken? Do you run off for an x-ray? Do you tough it out for a few days? I’ll show you the steps to take to rule out a fracture in your knee and save you a trip to the ER. Caveat here is that if there is a gross deformity go to the ER immediately and stop reading
Should I Get An X-ray For My Knee?
Here Are The 5 Rules To Determine If An X-ray Is Needed After A Knee Injury
If the answer to any of these questions is a yes, get an x-ray
- Are you over the age of 55?
- Is there tenderness on the head of the fibula?
- Is your patella (knee cap) tender to the touch?
- Are you unable to fully bend your knee?
- Are you unable to take 4 steps or completely weight bear?
Over the age of 55
This is just a natural part of biology. As we age, our bone density decreases. So if you are over the age of 55 and just injured your knee, it is much more likely you have a fracture than if someone younger than you did the same thing. This does mean mean that you fractured your knee; it just means that your next step should be to get an x-ray to rule out a fracture.
My Fibula Hurts, Do I Need An X-ray?
Yes. If you have pain up towards the head of your fibula (pictured below) then you should go get an x-ray. If you press on the outside of your knee and have sharp pain then you need to rule a fracture out. However, there are a few cases in which this rule can be ignored:
- The injury is greater than 7 days old
- The injury occurred in someone under the age of 18
- There are isolated injuries to the skin (lacerations, burns, punctures)
My Knee Cap Hurts To The Touch, Do I Need An X-ray?
If your patella (knee cap) hurts to the touch then you definitely need to get an x-ray. For this part only assess your knee cap; nothing else. As a reminder, a painful to the touch patella does not always mean it is a fracture. It simply means an x-ray is your next step to rule a fracture out.
I Can’t Bend My Knee, Do I Need An X-ray?
Yes. If you cannot bend your knee to 90 degrees after a knee injury then you will need an x-ray. See the image below to know how much 90 degrees is
I Can’t Put Weight On My Knee, Do I Need An X-ray?
Yes you do. This is probably the best indicator of all 5 of these criteria. If you cannot stand on your one leg or take 4 steps without limping, then an x-ray should be in your future.
A quick summary of the above info. If the answer any of the 5 questions was a yes then you need to get an x-ray. This does not mean there is a fracture in your knee. It means that an x-ray is needed to rule a fracture out.
If you were able to rule out a fracture then you can check out knee sprain information here, meniscus damage here, or early rehab here