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Knee Splinting Techniques

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

What are some injuries that require a knee splint? What are some knee splinting techniques? Learn all about the various aspects of knee splints and knee splinting techniques.

What Do You Do?

Pretend that you are on a mountain hike with a group of friends. During this hike, one of your friends trips over a rock and falls down a steep ledge, landing awkwardly on his right leg. You climb down to your friend to make sure he is alright. When you get to him, you notice that his knee looks like it is dislocated, and your friend says that he cannot move his knee.

Do you know what to do in this situation? If not, don't worry! This lesson will teach you all about what to do.

Injuries That Require Knee Splints

Splints are used to temporarily immobilize an injured joint in order to prevent further damage and to improve the healing process. There are several different types of injuries that often require the knee to be splinted. These injuries include:

  • Tear of the quadriceps tendon, the tendon that connects the quadriceps muscle (large muscle in the front of the upper leg) to the kneecap.
  • Tear of the patellar tendon, the tendon that connects the kneecap to the tibia (shin bone).
  • Tears to the ligaments in the knee (such as the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)).
  • Dislocated knee (just like your imaginary friend from the story at the beginning of the lesson).
  • Fractures to bones in the leg such as the kneecap, femur (long bone in the upper leg), or tibia.

Tears to the tendons and ligaments of the knee, as well as fractures to bones such as the tibia, may require a knee splint.
knee joint

Knee Splinting Techniques

There are certain techniques and procedures that should be followed when applying a knee splint. Some of the most important of these techniques and procedures include:

  • Splints should be applied before moving a person. From the imaginary scenario from the beginning of the lesson, it would best to splint your friend's knee before moving him. An exception to this rule is if the person is in a location that is very dangerous, such as in a busy street.
  • The joint above and below the injury should be splinted. For example, if the tibia is fractured, the ankle and knee joint should be splinted.
  • Many different kinds of material can be used as a splint in emergency situations. For example, tree branches, cardboard, and long pieces of wood can be used to splint the knee. These 'splints' can be tied to the leg using ropes, clothing, tape, or other similar materials.
  • When splinting the knee, it is usually best to maintain a slight bend in the knee joint. The best way to splint the knee in this position is to apply the splint to the back of the leg and place a small piece of rolled-up cloth behind the knee. This piece of rolled-up cloth will help to maintain a slight bend in the knee.
  • After the knee splint is applied, it is important to regularly check for a pulse on the foot. A pulse ensures that blood is flowing properly throughout the injured leg. If there is no pulse, this could be a sign that the splint is too tight and should then be loosened.

A piece of rolled-up cloth can be used to help maintain a slight bend in the knee while the leg is in a splint.
knee splint

Posterior Knee Splint

One of the most common types of knee splints is the posterior knee splint. A posterior knee splint is a splint that is applied to the back of the leg, extending from the bottom of the buttocks all the way to the malleolus (round bones located on both sides of the ankle). A posterior knee splint is a type of splint that would be found in a professional medical facility such as a hospital or doctor's office, rather than a type of splint that you would apply to your friend while out on a mountain hike, such as a long stick.

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