Dashboard dangers: Common knee injuries after a car accident

While injuries to the knee after a car accident are common, other injuries typically spring to mind when people think of injuries suffered in car accidents. These can include whiplash, brain trauma and more.

However, car accident victims should not overlook knee injuries. Both drivers and front-seat passengers are at risk for substantial knee impact during an accident. 

Common knee injuries

Drivers and passengers should be aware of the following types of knee injuries:

  • Dislocation—A dislocation is the misalignment of the kneecap or the leg bones. Ligament tears often accompany dislocation injuries. 
  • Ligament tears—Ligament tears occur when one or more ligaments separate from the bone. Ligament tears can be exceedingly painful and may require surgery to repair. 
  • Fractures—Fractures to the kneecap and connecting femur or tibia are common after an auto accident. Displaced fractures affect both bone and muscle and can increase the risk of continuing damage. 

Over time, lasting damage from any one of these common issues may lead to post-traumatic arthritis. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, post-traumatic arthritis can follow any severe knee injury due to lasting damage to the articular cartilage. This damage is painful and limits knee function and may eventually require total knee replacement surgery. 

Knee airbag effectiveness

Some car manufacturers install knee airbags with the intent to protect the knees and legs from additional damage from dashboard impacts. Unfortunately, though, knee airbags may not do much. A 2019 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety investigated the efficacy of knee airbags in crash tests. The study concluded that knee airbags do not “significantly reduce injury risk” for drivers and passengers.