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A guide to Lateral Collateral Ligament Injuries

A lateral collateral ligament (LCL) is one of the major ligaments found in the outer part of the knee which attaches the outer part of the thigh bone found at the knee, femur, to the outer side of the shin bone, tibia, to ensure knee stability.

Lateral collateral ligament tears are common sport-related injuries to the ligament and will usually come as a result of direct impact to the area or a twisting or pivoting force to the knee.

Lateral collateral ligament tears are common in contact sports such as football, rugby and hockey due to the high intensity and collisions involved.

LCL tears can also be seen in sports such as basketball and netball where the knee can twist after landing from a jump.

The severity of an LCL tear can vary from partial damage or tearing to a complete rupture.

LCL Injury Symptoms

Those suffering from an LCL tear will usually complain of an onset of severe pain in the inner knee at the point of injury with a sensation of the knee ‘popping’ or ‘tearing’.

The pain will usually be enough to prevent the individual continuing with any activity or sport, however if someone suffers an LCL tear and continues with sport the pain will increase and an inability to bear weight on the leg as a result.

Pain in the areas will usually be followed by swelling and inflammation in the area.

The feeling of pain will begin to subside after the initial onset however the individual will begin to feel discomfort and stiffness in the area and be unable to straighten the knee.

LCL Injury Diagnosis

To diagnose an LCL tear you will need to see a doctor of physiotherapist who can examine the area before ordering either an X-Ray or MRI scan to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any further complications

LCL Injury Treatment

Rest is crucial in order to treat an LCL tear as it will prevent any further damage to the ligament, this means avoiding all unnecessary activity which could cause further pain or discomfort to the knee.

Applying ice to area is also a key aspect of recovery for nay soft tissue injury as it will minimise any swelling and inflammation of the areas and provide a numbing pain relief.

Following the RICE method (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) when the injury first occurs and within the following 72 hours will ensure no further damage is caused to the area and prevent any further swelling of the injury which may come from resuming activity.

Anti-Inflammatory medications may be taken to relive the pain of the injury and also to minimize any swelling.

During the recovery process individuals can see a physiotherapist who can construct a strengthening program to help rebuild and maintain strength in the area and ensure flexibility once the injury has healed. This should not be done without professional advice.

In the final stages of recovery and in the first few months of returning to training, stretching exercises may be performed to keep the area stable and strong and can also help prevent the injury reoccurring.

One product recommended to those who have suffered an LCL tear are braces and supports, as they will provide the knee with stability and support to allow effective healing.

Many people once they have recovered will continue to wear a support or brace or as an alternative use taping technique to support the knee and prevent a recurrence of the injury.

SUMMARY

Causes

  • Overuse injury
  • Twisting force or direct impact to the knee
  • Rapid direction changes
  • Tackling, collisions and falls (common in football and rugby)

Symptoms

  • Popping sensation and pain in the knee
  • Pain at the inner aspect of the knee
  • Swelling and inflammation
  • Inability to bear weight

Treatment

  • RICE method
  • Anti-inflammatory Medication
  • Supports and Braces
  • Strengthening and Stretching exercises
  • Surgery
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