The Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments of Dashboard Knee

During a car accident, there are several areas of the body that can sustain breaks, sprains, bruises, and cuts. If a person is hit with such force that their knees smash into the interior front of the car, they can suffer from dashboard knee. The knee consists of a web of structures, including ligaments, femur, tibia, fibula, meniscus, muscles, tendons, and more. In the event of a car accident, these structures can easily get torn and damaged. Even if you don’t believe the injury is serious, medical care must always be sought shortly after an accident.

Dashboard Knee Causes

One of the most common knee injuries associated with car accidents is called “dashboard knee”. This happens when the knee slams into the dashboard due to the vehicles colliding. Victims of car accidents can still suffer from dashboard knee even if they were wearing seat-belts. From the force of impact, a person can slip beneath the seat-belt and make contact with the dashboard. 

Long-Term Effects

Dashboard knee can have long-term impacts for the car accident victim, particularly if the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) is damaged. Those with PCL injuries can develop arthritis and chronic pain or stiffness years after the incident. Prompt medical treatment can help lessen the chances of being diagnosed with knee complications down the line. 


It is important that anyone who has injured their knees, visits a knee doctor shortly after for prompt treatment. Many people may wait to see if the injury gets better on its own. But when it comes to knee damage, this is rarely the case. Common symptoms for dashboard knee can include:

  • Warm to the touch
  • Redness and bruising
  • Popping, grinding, or crunching sounds
  • Inability to straighten the knee entirely
  • Knee “gives out” when walking or standing
  • Observable knee swelling
  • Deformity in leg and/or knee area
  • Fever in addition to pain and swelling of knee

Patella Injuries

Damage to the patella is quite common in dashboard injuries. The patella is a bone which attaches to the quadriceps and tibia. It is a free-floating part that helps protect the articular surface of the knee joint. If too much pressure is applied to kneecap, it can break. If the patella is fractured, a person is likely to feel immediate pain swelling. It may also be difficult to bear weight onto the knee. 


The first couple days after the accident, a knee doctor may suggest icing the knee area a few times a day for twenty minutes to reduce swelling and pain. After that, you can switch to a warm compress to open up the blood vessels. Warm compresses can also get the knee prepared for stretches and motion exercises. 

The severity of the dashboard knee can vary by person based on circumstances of the accident. Depending on the intensity of the knee damage, a knee pain doctor in Frederick, MD, such as from the Pain & Spine Specialist of Maryland, LLC, may recommend resting and performing treatments at home or doing further diagnostics to determine if surgery is required. Treatment may entail a procedure, icing, heating, wrapping to reduce swelling, stretching, and light exercise.