Sprains are graded by the level of injury to the tissue. These grading systems vary for different ligaments in the body, but the most common scale for knee ligament injuries is I-III (least to worst.)

A grade I sprain occurs due to overstretching. It is considered a “mild” sprain and usually results in minor swelling and stiffness of the knee. Current evidence shows that a grade I sprain in the knee will heal and return to normal in anywhere from 4-8 weeks.

It’s a frustratingly long time for some “minor” stretching. But the blood supply issue pushes the healing time out longer than most people suspect. And since the knee is so crucial to getting around, even minor discomfort doesn’t go unnoticed.

A Grade II sprain means there is a small tear, but it’s not all the way through the ligament. At this time, it’s unknown how much those sprains truly heal, but it’s safe to assume that you can get back to your sport after some time off. 

A Grade III sprain is equivalent to a full tear in which the ligament has torn apart from itself and don’t expect these to heal. Grade III sprains often undergo surgery, although there are currently many valid non-operative options.


If you’ve been hit with a knee sprain, start by looking for the following Red Flags as a reason to seek further medical evaluation.

Medical Red Flags

  • Knee gets “locked” in position- either bent or straight
  • New onset of painful clicking or catching
  • Feeling of instability or giving out
  • Swelling that lasts >5 days

If you test out of all these and want to save time and money, then it’s fine to wait it out.

But, if you’re worried about your knee, get it checked out by a medical professional for peace of mind.  It’s not really an emergency situation though, so no need to rush to the emergency room.

A physiotherapist is probably your best resource for the sake of time, cost, and a more comprehensive recovery plan when appropriate. Otherwise, a general practitioner or urgent care clinic can evaluate the issue and provide further recommendations, which are usually rest and anti-inflammatories, and potentially a referral for a sports medicine doctor (ref).


If you’ve sprained your knee, the first question is likely: What should be done? It’s a simple, yet challenging task, and that is resting the injury.

Rest will be slightly different for each type of sprain, but in general, it means eliminating painful activities. In the best-case scenario, inflammation takes about 14 days to resolve. Thus, the rule of “if it hurts, don’t do it” is a safe bet to follow for 2 weeks. Trying to push through the pain will only bring further inflammation and ultimately slow healing time.

In total, you’re looking at a healing time of 6-8 weeks, but will be feeling better between 2-4 weeks. You will notice a reduction in swelling, and your range of motion will return to normal. You’ll feel that it’s time to get back to life—unfortunately, it’s not done healing.

It’s in the window of weeks 2-4 that people run into issues because they jump right back into their previous activity level. Even though the knee feels better, it’s still missing some stability, which increases the risk of hurting the same ligament again. If not something worse!

It’s during these weeks that a properly structured exercise plan becomes super important.

Low impact exercises targeting the glutes, core, and leg muscles will keep those muscles engaged, while healing occurs. This makes it easier to return to full activity, and potentially even solving some of the underlying strength issues that caused the knee sprain to happen.

If you need help with this, we walk you through everything in our 30-Day Knee Fix.


As Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And considering the time and limitation caused by a knee sprain, an effort towards prevention is worth it. That’s especially true if you’re at higher risk, like in a sport with lots of contact or cutting.