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Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL) InjuriesThe LCL is one of the four major ligaments that helps stabilize the knee joint when performing movement with the leg. It connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin bone) along the outside of the knee and prevents that part of the knee joint from opening or gapping. An LCL injury can be a stretch, partial tear, or complete tear of the lateral collateral ligament.
Causes of LCL InjuriesTypically the LCL is injured when there is direct force on the inside of the knee - the part closest to your other leg. This can cause the LCL, which is located on the outside of the knee, to be stretch or torn beyond its normal range of motion. Tears to the LCL are often seen during knee dislocations. Luckily LCL injuries are far less common than tears to other ligaments in the knee.
Symptoms of a Torn LCLThe symptoms of an LCL injury are similar to other ligament injuries. You may experience pain and tenderness along the outside of the knee, along with swelling. Some people also describe a feeling of instability in their knee when walking. As with other injuries, consult your physician for a proper diagnosis.
How to Treat a Torn LCLAs with any injury, your doctor will be the best source of advice on the appropriate treatment method for your situation. Often, immediate treatment of an injured LCL is similar to other knee injures. Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (the RICE principle) should be used immediately to reduce pain and swelling. Some patients may also use anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin.
Usually, surgery is not needed for an injured or torn LCL unless there have been injuries to other areas of the knee. Unlike the MCL, it's not connected to the meniscus so meniscus tears are typically not seen in conjunction with LCL tears. While the LCL is recovering, a rigid hinged knee brace can be worn to provide extra stability and protection for the knee. Your doctor may also recommend a physical therapy program to help with rehabilitation.