Diagnosing knee hyperextension will vary from patient to patient, as the range in severity of the injury is broad. For example, an individual who suffered a traumatic hyperextension may have bruising, torn ligaments, and be in a great deal of pain. Others who have suffered a minor hyperextension may have light swelling and slightly reduced mobility.

With this in mind, athletes seeking medical attention for a potentially hyperextended knee will likely have differing experiences based on the severity of their injury. Most diagnostic processes will involve three primary factors:

Patient History

A doctor will consider the medical history of an athlete before advising treatment. For example, an athlete with prior knee injuries may be more susceptible to a more severe injury.

Physical Examination

The physical examination will aid the physician in determining the severity of the injury and if further imaging is needed.


During the physical examination, the doctor will check the athlete’s range of motion by moving the leg forward and backward. In some patients the leg will be locked indicating a more severe injury. Throughout this process, the doctor will also check for visible bruising or swelling that may be due to a torn ligament or other internal damage.



Typically, imaging will be performed if the injury is severe enough. Typically an MRI and/or x-rays are performed.

In some cases, imaging will not need to be used for a doctor to diagnose an athlete with a hyperextended knee. If, however, surgical intervention is expected to be used as treatment, imaging will be necessary in order to develop plans for the procedure and recovery.

Dr. Sean Colio is a sports medicine physician specializing in the treatment and prevention of sports and musculoskeletal injuries. He serves as a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Stanford University. Dr. Colio co-founded the Sports Concussion Clinic at Swedish Spine, Sports & Musculoskeletal Medicine.